Wednesday, November 30, 2011

There Are No Coincidences

I always want to start my emails off with "Hello from Kota Kinabalu!" But that is more like a radio host or something weird. The second choice is "What a crazy week." I don't know how to start emails. I'll just dive in, I suppose.

Our golden investigator Marvin is getting baptized this Saturday (we're going to his house with the Elders for his interview today) so I'll let you know how that goes. He's so excited, so ready, so good. We taught him about the priesthood and how it's the power of Jesus Christ that is used only to bless the lives of other people. All Christ did with His power was serve and bless those around him. It was cool to see it click--it was like a lightbulb in the soul turned on.

Funny language mistakes of the week: I was explaining to one new 16-year-old investigator that the sacrament is a symbol of Christ's sacrifice, but I wasn't totally sure what the word for symbol is, and I ended up saying "toilet" instead. We all laughed. It's so awful how those silly words like "toilet" ARE actually the words you mix up...

We're teaching two 16-year-old girls who are so cool--Oki and Tarlyn. They're best friends with a member,  Brittiny, who was baptized last year. They've both felt that at their family's church they never understand what is being taught, they have to just nod their head. Also the people are cold and uninterested in them. They are recognizing how different it is at the Church of Jesus Christ and how it just feels different to them. We taught them about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ--WHY this church feels different. That the Spirit is there. We taught them about prophets and showed them the Joseph Smith movie and they giggled because Joseph Smith is "handsome!" :) But they really did understand his role as the tool God used to restore His original Gospel, which is so cool! Their hearts are so prepared. They both want to be baptized on Christmas Eve, but they are afraid to ask their parents for permission. That is the biggest concern right now--they of course need to talk to their parents. We are all praying it will work out, that their parents' hearts will be softened and recognize what a good thing this is.

So the Elders met a girl on the bus named Betty who has met the Sisters before us. She told the Elders they had her phone number but never called, or something like that, so she's never been to church, but would like to meet with Sisters to learn about the Church. The Elders gave us her phone number and we've been trying to meet her. Three days later, I was sitting on the bus and met this girl named Susie. She was super nice and had heard of the Church before--had some member friends a while ago (though they've moved now), and has even been to church once before!!! I asked her if she'd be interested in coming again that coming Sunday and she said yes, and I gave her something to read about the Plan of Salvation. So then, that night at the apartment, Sister Wong called Betty to see how she was doing and Betty said "I think you met my sister today!" Sister Wong's mouth dropped open. Betty and Susie are sisters!!! Crazy! They don't even live nearby the places we met them. The odds of that are so slim, there are so many people here. Miracle! God is trying to tell them something! Forgive my shaky story-telling skills, but it was way cool. There are no coincidences. They couldn't make it to church this last Sunday but hopefully this Sunday they will come--they both want to. Their parents have even met missionaries before and carry church pamphlets with them to read. Family!!!!

So today I found this scripture: 2 Cor 8:9 - "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." Enough said. The Atonement is so incredible. Our Savior's love is so deep and far-reaching and all-encompassing. His sacrifice was infinite and voluntary. On my mission so far it has become so apparent to me the NEED for a Savior. How He really really is the Light of the world, the Light that we hold up. He is mighty to save, to heal, to redeem.

Also what has stood out to me lately is the need for prayer, church, scripture study, and following God's commandments. These are the Sunday school answers but THEY ARE WHAT BRING YOU TO CHRIST! As missionaries, we invite people to come unto Christ by teaching them true doctrine and inviting them to do those 4 things. Those things are what CHANGE PEOPLE'S LIVES. So powerful! It's what we want for our investigators, so they can come unto Christ. Please hear my brief testimony on these things. Attend church, pray OFTEN!, study the Book of Mormon/pray about it, and do what you know is right. This is what will change you. It will invite the Spirit into your life, change your heart. It's the way to Christ.

Go to and watch the Brandon Flowers video, if you haven't yet. Pretty cool. :)

You are all wonderful. The Church is true. More next week.

Sister Gopinath

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving, Cartoon Characters, and Refining

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanksgiving is great. It's quite a spiritual holiday if we do it right. Full of blessings... why? Well, because we eat a lot of food, but also because we make efforts to be aware of the abundant blessings the Lord has given us. Later today our district is getting together at the senior couple's apartment for Thanksgiving dinner. It's so funny to be a white person. Sometimes I feel like a cartoon character... or at least that some people feel like we're cartoon characters. :) Especially because of one elder, Elder Petersen, who is way white, has big eyes, and probably 6'2". I can't imagine the attention he gets here.

This week has been really good. Super difficult, (got dropkicked by a few really promising investigators) but I am starting to feel more like myself. All the missionaries throughout the mission are working really hard to accomplish our yearly goals before the end of the year... we're needing miracles. But they just might come if we have enough faith and work hard enough. It's so physically and mentally demanding, this work. We get rejected, or mocked, or even objectified/degraded (in the case of the sisters) at one door or during one contact, but the next door we need to be still full of love and strength and the Spirit so that next person gets a quality contact with us. It's hard. But it's cool. It's impossible to be a good missionary and not experience personal growth. It's so trying, so refining.

So there's this one investigator, who will be my first real baptism. His name is Martin and he is the coolest ever. I think I've mentioned him before, but I must talk about him again. He's so cool sometimes it's hard not to just laugh at how great he is, he so far exceeds expectations. He lives with his grandmother and cousin, who are both members of the church. When we first met Martin, he was shy, quiet, unsure of himself. He seemed to have a weight on his shoulders. We taught him about the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He didn't really understand a lot of it, he told us, but he felt good and decided to accept it. Since that day he has begun to pray several times a day, he reads the Book of Mormon into the wee hours of the morning, he teaches us about his favorite verses in the Book of Mormon, he's come with us missionaries to teach other people and has born his testimony to them, he's made great friends with the branch mission leader... he's open, friendly, funny, has a bright light in his countenance. He is preparing for a mission next year. He's getting baptized on December 3rd--our original plan for him was December 10th, but he is so beyond ready. When we told him we thought he could be baptized early, his face lit up. He's so so so amazing. Such a different person. What a blessing he is... how ready he was! He's progressed just because of his own personal choices. All we did as missionaries was present a testify of the principles, and extended invitations to act. He chose to accept all of it, and he has done more than we've even invited him to do. His desire to be close to Heavenly Father is so strong. He is willing to do anything. He is truly the "I will give away all of my sins to know Thee" type of person. I'm so excited for the rest of his life! and his baptism!!!

A few days ago I was reading a scripture and I saw the title "Lamb of God" in reference to the Savior. It sunk deep into my heart. Heavenly Father created this plan of happiness for us, gave us everything we have, gave us the way, gave us His Son. That is something I never recognized. Creating this plan for our salvation was not an easy experience. Just as people of old were asked to sacrifice animals as a offering to God, such as their best/purest lamb, Heavenly Father also was required to sacrifice His own Lamb. Jesus Christ, who was perfect, pure, good, strong, filled with full and perfect love. Heavenly Father's Son, Heavenly Father's Lamb, Heavenly Father's sacrifice. That was the price. What a sobering thought.

Also Alma 7:11-14 has been a big theme of this last week for me. The Atonement of Christ is real. He really does know exactly what each of us is experiencing. Although he was perfect, he chose to experience our trials exactly as we experience it, as a weak mortal. His understanding and compassion is complete and deep. He has conquered all our trials by completing His Atonement--He has paved the way. We need to follow Him. He will be beside us. We can feel that. I have felt that. I've been trying to make taking the sacrament a spiritual experience with the Atonement. If we want to have experiences with the Atonement, and we're willing to remember the Savior, we WILL feel His very real influence in our lives. He's walking beside us, and we are able to FEEL that, and know how real that actually us. No one else can experience that for you. Not even reading my testimony can give you an adequate understanding of how deep the Savior's love is for you. It's something you should experience firsthand. We do that by following His commandments, learning about His life and Atonement, making and keeping and renewing sacred covenants with Him, and striving to remember Him always. We do need to do our part but we get so much in return. Christ lives. He knows us, one by one. I bear my solemn witness of that. 

Sister Gopinath

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done

Hello everyone!

KK is still great. There's nowhere I'd rather be. Being a missionary sure is hard, but it's going to be worth it. This is the hardest thing mentally I've ever done, hands down. I have so much I need to improve on.

The church really is so new here. It's so different to be in a Branch of people who ALL have conversion stories. I think the longest-time member joined the church 12 years ago. Most of them, though, are within the last 4 years, and most are part-member families. I admire them so much. We don't live in a spiritual world, but there still are spiritual people who defy their surroundings and choose to follow God and be free from the dirt and slum of the world. It really shows your character when you choose to do something you feel is right when everything around you pulls you the other way, is trying to pull you down. Acting, instead of being acted upon.

It's interesting because the majority of our strongest members are ones who investigated the church for months and months. They usually had one thing they were holding onto that was holding them back. One of our YSA's shared his story with us this week, which really touched me. He said he used to be "kuat jahat" before, meaning wicked. (There are a lot of things in Malay that translate so poorly into English...haha) He would lie all the time, tried to "galalkan orang"... try to get people to fail, pick on them. He met with the missionaries and would lie to them. But what made the difference was he began to read the Book of Mormon. He would read a little every day, and soon he would read in the morning, during his lunch break, and then at night. Something in him gradually transformed. He became a new person because of the Spirit that the Book of Mormon brought into his life. He repented and was baptized, a year after meeting the missionaries. He is amazing now--his face shines with the light of Christ. Sometimes it takes time. I need to have patience and remember that sometimes I am just their first encounter with the Church, preparing them for a time in a future when they're more ready to receive it.

There are so many amazing examples here. I learn so much from the people I met, especially this week. One woman we met was a underpaid, undervalued housemaid (slave, almost) who lives far from her son and has no phone to call him... never is allowed to leave the house of the people she works for, and they don't let her go to church because they are Buddhist and they don't understand Christianity. She has such a hard life but she is SUCH a loving person. She is strong. We swung by the other day and shared a message about faith and prayer with her on the front porch, and she shed tears as she told us her experience with prayer. She said what she cannot tell anyone else, she can express to Heavenly Father in prayer. He takes her burden, listens to her with infinite patience, sends relief to her burdened soul. My soul aches to reach out to this woman. She is incredible. I wish we could teach her, but she never has an off day so she can't do anything for herself or come to church. I don't know how I can help.

There's this woman who came to church on Sunday, and said she's wanted to come to this church for 5 years. She's from the Philippines and has seen the church, the Temple, and the missionaries. Only just now we met her on the bus and she has come to church and she was really enjoying it. We want to teach her really bad, she seems really prepared, but she is difficult to meet. Lives far, is busy. Hopefully we can meet with her soon.

Another new investigator we met with this week was a 17-year-old boy from Indonesia named Ricky. It's so interesting to see how people's lives and families affect them. He is 17, but he stopped school when he was 11 or 12 so he could work to support his family. Although he is not very educated, he is quite mature. He's not goofy or superficial like a teenager. He is really more like 25 years old on the inside. Anyway, he told us he wanted to learn about Jesus Christ. We met with him and his family once and taught them how to pray and taught about prophets. They smoked throughout the lesson... it was an okay lesson but the smoking made it hard. His family is Roman Catholic so they really strongly identify with that church (tradition, family, rather than spirituality), although it was apparent that they know close to nothing about the teachings of their own church. But just the one boy, the 17-yr-old, wanted to keep learning. He came to church all by himself (without his family knowing) and seemed to like it and asked us for a Bible and Book of Mormon. We got him the Book of Mormon, but when we tried to meet him yesterday, he didn't show up. We waited 45 minutes, called him, and he told us he was still at work. So we just left and went to the Branch FHE activity, and after FHE, Sister Wong saw on the phone there were 9 missed calls. It was Fiki, and he was crying. He said he had to be honest. He wasn't held up at work, but rather as he was trying to come meet us, he ran into his older brother and told him he was going to meet us. The older brother forced him to go home and told him he can't meet with us. He was scared, and like I said he was just crying on the phone. He wanted to learn more about Jesus. We told him that he should keep praying and reading the Book of Mormon, and someday when he is older he will be able to learn from us. And he knows where the church is and he is always welcome. It was a really heartbreaking night. Judgement day is going to be sad for all of the parents and older siblings who will not allow their family members to learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They don't GET what they're really doing. It's hard.

We're going to keep working. The people here are so great.

I KNOW this Gospel is true. The message I've been send to share is true. Jesus Christ is real, He lives, and through Him we can become free of all sin and we WILL conquer death. The Book of Mormon is the mighty word of God. It's such a big position I'm in--the Lord calls us in our weakness, and strengthens us if we choose to let him. Trying to do what he would do if he was in my place. The battle in life is really against ourselves, in a sense. Because our ability to CHOOSE is so powerful for good or bad. If we choose good, we have Heaven on our side. God is on our side. SO powerful. Light always conquers darkness. I'm so grateful for this complete and restored Gospel. I'm not perfect but I know the way, I know enough. I'm here to share it.

Sister Gopinath

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kota Kinabaluuuuuu!

Hey everyone!

Another crazy week in KK. It was a hard week, a lot of our new investigators have been disappointing and now we're back to the drawing board. One that I was really really excited about keeps sending his niece to answer the door and lie to us, telling us that no one is home, after we took a bus to come out to see him. It happened twice. Probably my least favorite thing in the world is when people lie to me. The first time we went to that house (it's the one with a pregnant wife), it was great. They were so nice and there was a good feeling in the home. Now when we have gone back for our appointments (that didn't happen), that good feeling isn't there anymore. It's a dark feeling. I hope they are okay. It makes me sad and hurt and confused. They don't realize what they're rejecting!! But apparently this has happens a lot to everyone on the mission. 

We got hardcore anti-ed the other day! We went to visit a less active member at her work, and found her sitting at a cafe with this guy so we went to talk to them. The guy found out we were LDS and started ripping on us. Gave this uncalled-for 10 minute monologue to us, basically. I could barely understand anything he was saying (I can't understand people when the Spirit isn't present--true story), but I felt dark. He was preaching false doctrine about our church to us. There was such a terrible dark feeling there, and I didn't even understand him but I knew what was going on. I didn't say anything to him--what he was saying didn't deserve a response. It's amazing! No other church is fought against so hard!! It's quite intimidating to be in this position of influence, the front lines of the church. We missionaries are often the first ones to be attacked. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints truly is led by Jesus Christ, and thus it is worth fighting against if you are on Satan's side. We are a threat to the adversary. It's actually quite cool. What I find funny is that anti-Mormons try to destroy our faith, but what really happens is that our faith is re-confirmed by the opposition. I KNOW that what I'm doing is right, what I'm doing is of God. It is beautiful and brings sweet joy and peace to the soul. The original Gospel of Jesus Christ can heal like NOTHING else can.

Okay, so here are some funny things about Malaysia: KFC is huuuge here. Everyone loves KFC, and KFC here has rice and I think it even has curry. It's awesome. I've been telling people that I live near Kentucky in the US... but to them, Kentucky isn't a place, but a flavor of chicken. :)hahaha!

The members here call me Sister Gopi, and are amazed at how long my nose is.

The other night, Sister Wong and I were knocking doors. There were some Muslim kids riding their bikes, and one of them said "Hi, Miss!" as we passed them. I said hi back. He kept riding his bicycle, and I walked away. Thirty seconds later, I hear, "ORANG PUTIH!!!!" from the distance, which is what he was really thinking. Translated into English, he yelled, "WHITE PERSON!!!!"

One of our progressing investigators, Martin, is so awesome. He is already keeping the Word of Wisdom (a huge problem for 98% of Malaysians) because his LDS cousin, who he lives with, mentioned it. He is so willing to do anything asked of him. He is so accepting of everything we teach him, and he wants to understand. He is hungry to know God, and he is taking action to get himself there. He's a way good example. He's 20 years old and lives with his grandma, cousin, and mom--his mom is the only non-member. He's got great support in his grandma and cousin. He's gonna go FAR. He's so awesome. Hooray for priesthood holders!!! (The branch currently has less than 10.)

It's really hard not being able to teach Muslims! Yesterday I was on the bus, and I was talking to this Buddhist lady and telling her how I was a volunteer for a Christian church. This Muslim lady sitting in front of us turned around and told the Buddhist lady, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." She knew the name of the church. She was so nice and interested in me, and already knew who I was... and I really couldn't share anything with her. It was sad! She totally would have met with us and listened. This happens pretty often. Muslims are SO NICE. They're such good people. Unfortunately in Malaysia, the best we can do is plant seeds by being kind. Someday that law will change... someday.

Malaysia is great. Missionary work is hard but it's gonna be worth it. The Lord loves us. We can and should be receiving personal revelation every single day--God answers prayers. He sends His Spirit. Even if the answer won't come for a while, if you pray sincerely, the Spirit will come and help you know that your Heavenly Father heard what you told him, and is doing all he can. Pray from your heart, pray with faith that He hears you, because He does. I bear testimony of that. God lives.

 I've been thinking today about how expensive the Atonement was. The justice of God is harsh and unforgiving, because the Kingdom of God would cease to be the Kingdom of God if ANYTHING dirty entered into it. Even one sin disqualifies us for returning to live with Heavenly Father. When we make excuses for our sins, we deny the justice of God. We need the Savior. Jesus Christ suffered the eternal price of each sins! The price was SO terrible and so painful. The price was the Spirit of a God. It was enough to completely and totally satisfy the harsh demands of justice, and through the Atonement of Christ, we have access to mercy. Because of what Christ did, if we forsake our sins by repenting, we can be made clean because Christ paid for those sins. So incredible. We need to use that Atonement, so that mercy has claim on us. Repentance is such a VITAL and precious and expensive gift. Given out of pure and perfect love. Alma 42:29-31.

 I bear my witness that the Atonement is real and that Christ lives.

Love you all!
Sister Gopinath

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Evil Dogs, Witches, and Watermelon Jack-o-lanterns

Whoo! What a crazy week.

Since last time I wrote all of our investigators fell off the face of the earth, or we had to give them to the Elders in our district to teach since it's better for some people to be taught by men. We seriously had no one to teach--there was one boy we taught but he is too busy with exams to meet with us again (the one day we did teach him, it was a holiday). So at the beginning of our week was hard, and I was getting discouraged (I need to work on that), though Sister Wong kept at it. She is a really strong person. We had nothing to do but knock doors and run away from evil dogs. (The dogs here are SCARY!!! I haven't been afraid of dogs since I was a little girl but I'm newly afraid of them these days. They are all dirty and most of them are really mean.)

Sister Wong and I have been praying to find a young family to teach. On Sunday and Monday, our number of new investigators went from zero to 5. We found two young men who have never felt that they've known God before, but now want to. They don't know each other yet but they are both so sincere in their hearts. One, whose name is Peter, lives out in the boonies and his arms are decorated with do-it-yourself tattoos. He came to church for the first time, and was so shy about his tattooed arms. After church we had a really good lesson and we talked about baptism with him. He kept saying how he wants to be clean, and become a good person. We talked about repentance and forgiveness and baptism. He's SUPER awesome. The only thing is that he smokes a pack every day, but that's actually quite low for the average Malaysian, and he says he doesn't like smoking and does it mainly because of his friends. Hopefully he can overcome that, keep coming to church, and be baptized. He is sincere. And he already has a friend here--he was actually a referral from a girl in our branch named June.  

June is someone amazing. She is a better missionary than I am, and she's just a regular 19-year-old girl. She is the only active member in her family, but she is super strong. She comes to everything, goes out with us missionaries at least weekly (would go more if she could), talks to EVERYONE she can about the gospel, and befriends basically every investigator. Fearless! She has 13 months until she turns 21 and can serve her own mission. She's so excited. A great example to me of a great missionary.

So on Monday, going back to our investigators, we found two small families. One is a couple expecting their first child next year, and the other is a mother with a new baby (whose husband we haven't met yet). They both we door-knocks and they invited us into their home. The husband of the pregnant woman, J--k, is SO kind. He kept saying how though a lot of churches/paths are good, he wants to find the BEST one. We taught them about the Plan of Salvation a little bit, about eternal families, and about the Restoration! Haha! When we told him that we have a living prophet today, his eyes lit up and he said, "THIS is what I didn't understand! Thank you so much for coming and bringing this news!" We're going back on Saturday to watch the Restoration video with him and go more in depth with the Restoration. His wife is super good at reading--she read like three pamphlets in 20 minutes. They are both super awesome! And the woman with a new baby was so kind to us and so sincere. She seems interested in hearing our message. We're going back to her house on Saturday too. I have really high hopes for all of these people. They all seem really prepared.

Being a missionary is hard! And it's awesome! We keep getting rained on. I think we've been soaked to the bone 3 times this week. :) The whole "no swimming" rule as a missionary doesn't really apply to us here. On our way to the Halloween party on Monday we were walking in heavy rain by the road, and a car came by and sent a tidal wave over us. Seriously. It was so funny. I actually like getting rained on... someone told me once that missionary work is so much cooler when it's rugged. I'd have to agree.

This morning I was reading in 3 Nephi 12:23-24.   (Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hat aught against thee--Go they way unto they brother, and first be reconciled to they brother, and then come unto me with a full purpose of heart, and I will receive you. )

Sister Wong and I have been working on companionship unity, and succeeding lately. I love this scripture because it reminds me how contention with your neighbor or family makes it really hard to feel the Spirit of the Lord. In order to be a true disciple of Christ, with full purpose of heart, we need to love and continually do our part to strengthen our relationship. Forgiveness should be a regular part of our lives. The ability to apologize first is a valuable skill that comes with prayer and with practice.

 I love you all and think about you often! I appreciate all of your prayers.

 Love, Sister Gopinath

 P.S. Halloween in Malaysia is hilarious. Only the Mormons celebrate it, EVERY woman dresses up as a witch, and the pumpkins here stink so people carve watermelons instead. You should try it next year. It's actually way better than carving pumpkins, in my opinion!