Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Jurus'lamat Sayangiku"

Hey!  I hope everyone had a good Christmas.  I've realized that Christmas Day, though we all look forward to it, is kind of sad because it marks the end of the Christmas season.  At least I have Chinese New Year (twelve days here!) to look forward to--I've heard it's really cool here.  We are about to enter the year of the dragon.

There's not really much to report about my Christmas other than I got to talk to my amazing family, which was honestly the best present I could have gotten.  Not to sound cliche, but seriously.  It was great.  Other than that we went around visiting less-actives and members.  The work slowed down quite a bit because everyone has left the city and returned to their villages.  But now they're starting to come back.   :)   Lots of potential investigators we'll finally be able to see again.

Wilma got baptized last night!  It's been a roller coaster but she has worked so hard to get to her baptism, and she did it.  Lots of concerns and doubts, lots of concerns and doubts overcome by faith and turned into trust and testimony of the goodness of God.  Her faith is great and her mind is determined.  Her testimony of the Book of Mormon is unshakable, and she is very sensitive to the influence of the Holy Spirit, which is great.  She's so funny.  She feels close to a lot of the members already which helps her a lot.  Lola and I sang "Jurus'lamat Sayangiku" at her baptism... that primary song that goes "A long time ago in a beautiful place."  It was good.  It was hard for her because her family doesn't yet understand what she's doing, but she was happy last night.  She knows it's right.  What a good example to me.

Feeling more and more like myself, finally starting to adjust to all this change and getting a handle on things.  Also, my trainer is finishing her mission on Monday.  Unknown paths lie ahead.  I'm definitely going to miss Sister Wong.  She is going to be so blessed for putting up with/working with a companion like me.  I've learned so much from her and am very blessed that she was my companion.  A part of me I feels like I'm about to go home too.  I can't wrap my head around the fact that I'm going to be here for another 14 months... next Christmas, I will still be a missionary.  It feels too good to last that long.  So excited for 2012. :)

So Elder Larson, a senior missionary in our area, said regarding his mission as a young man in Germany: "The mission changes your life because you see the world for what it is."  That kind of hit me, or clicked with me.  That's just how I feel.  That's a huge difference in missionary work--the way you VIEW the world.  As a missionary you need to view the world more like God sees it, which unlocks so much truth.  (That and you go to places you would never normally go to, talk to people you might never normally talk to.)  I will never see people the same way again.  I learn every day.  There's so much power in thought and in intention and in choice--the effect of personal choices when given opportunity to make one.  Knowledge, upbringing, attitude, and lots more so intangible and hard to express but so real and all around me.  I've been told that I will never be the same after my mission.  I totally believe it.  I've also been told I have absolutely no idea what that means, because it will change me and my future and my family's future more than I comprehend right now.  The things I am learning, moreso the experience I'm gaining, is so valuable.  I'm so far from the missionary I actually want to be, the person I want to be. I'm never going to be perfect but I'm going to come out of this so much better.  The Lord really does bless us freely--I can't believe I have done what I have done so far.  So much of it seems impossible--and it would have been, had it not been for Heavenly Father's abundant grace and love and willingness to bless and support me in my weakness.  And these principles apply to us ALL, not just missionaries.  The experiences we have in life truly shape us.  We are here to learn, and we determine our futures--we even determine tomorrow.  God is waiting to bless us, we just need to do what he's asked.  And also pray.  Prayer is incredible. :)

The Gospel is true!  It CHANGES LIVES.  I have SEEN IT.  Jesus lives and has power to save us from sin and death.  God answers every sincere prayer.

Read the Book of Mormon every day.  :) It will bring you to Christ.

That's all.

Sister Gopinath

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Music in Malaysia = Train Wreck

So... there are some amazing people in the world.  Such strong faith. Eddy and Reiki (Villa's siblings we met last week) are amazing young men, who really just desire to do what is right and do what God wants them to and become closer to Christ. I'm humbled again and again at the jewels that we meet--people full of goodness.  Last night we had a lesson with them about the Restoration more in depth, and I was touched by their sincerity.  Eddy asked us sincereily what faith is, inquired about prayer, Reiki about when he was younger he felt like he'd rather hang out with friends than go to church but now that's changing and he's feeling that following Jesus Christ is the most important thing for him.   These boys are examples to me--I wish you could meet them!!--of having the heart of a child, even though they're 21 and 15 years old (and live on their own).   They are so sincere and submissive and meek and open and desiring what is good.  After this lesson on the bus ride home I felt that my heart and mind were filled with the things of Heaven.   "Of such is the Kingdom of God."  It's so true.  The qualities of a child are so much the same as the qualities of the Savior.  We need to grow in wisdom as we have learning experiences, and have the minds of adults, but our hearts need to remain pure as a child's.  And it's totally possible.   Those are what the people in Heaven are going to be like.

This week I have been working on/focusing on loving the people more.   Yesterday I found this quote from Joseph Smith:  "A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race."   I also love 2 Nephi 26:33 - "He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female ; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."  Another quote that's been on my mind is from O Holy Night.   My favorite line, probably, is "Chains will He break, for the slave is our brother."

Before my mission I never realized the depth of this truth (actually I'm still learning and will continue…).   All people truly are children of our Heavenly Father, endowed with divine attributes and given the precious and powerful gift of agency. God really does shine his sunlight on both the good and the evil.   As followers of Christ, it's our responsibility to love everyone, EVERYone.   In the Bible it's explained how even wicked people love those that love them, but it takes spiritual strength and a truly good heart to love those that do not love you or treat you well.   That is true Christianity. Definitely working on that one.   To me it is one of the most noble things: to love purely, with your entire heart, someone who is difficult to love/does not reciprocate. We need God's divine help to get to that place but it is more than possible.

I'm so grateful for Christmas and this time to reflect on the reality of the Savior and Redeemer of the world.   It's the most powerful thing.   Reflecting on His life and what it means for me, and also reflecting on generosity and how to spread His love to those around me.   Christmas is incredible.   It's a time of prayer, generosity, forgiveness, love, family, sacrifice, and the Spirit of God.   I hope that your faith and testimony of our Savior deepens and grows as Christmas comes nearer.

Sister Gopinath

P.S. If you are in a place that has snow, will you play in it for me?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Makan Angin "To Eat Wind" Means to Waste Time

Hello!  What an eventful week.  First off, can I tell you that Marvin gave a talk on baptism at a baptism on this past Saturday? Exactly one week after he was baptized himself, he was standing in front of us teaching and testifying to us about baptism.  It's kind of funny, but it's really true--Sister Wong says she feels like missionary work is basically parenting.  I'm finding that to be true.  You serve and teach and love these people unconditionally...  when they make bad choices, it so breaks your heart, but when they make right choices, you absolutely rejoice--it's like floating on cloud 9!!  Seeing Marvin give a talk, even though he's actually only a few months younger than me, made me feel like a mother watching her son.  I just wanted to pinch his cheeks.  He received the priesthood on Sunday and will help out with the sacrament this coming Sunday.  He is such a blessing.  So proud, so proud!

So there's this one girl (who is actually close friends with Marvin) who has been coming to church.  Her name is Narlene and she is 16--she's so cute and she already glows with the light of Christ.  She's amazing because everything she learns at church, she takes home and teaches her family.  We haven't yet met her family and they're not sure yet how they feel about their daughter investigating the church.  But Narlene really wants to be baptized...  she was so quick to recognize the differences in this church, there's just a different feeling.  And she says it's the first time she's actually understood what people teach at church, which is really meaningful to her.  Sister Wong was telling her that she could be the one to bring the gospel to her family, so she could bring them with her into this amazing church.  She replied, "Of course I want that, but you know if they don't want to I still need to be baptized.”  She's so cool.  We gave her the Restoration video and she went home and showed her family, which is incredible.  We also gave her a picture of the temple and explained briefly what it was, and she has already decided she wants to get married there.  hahaha!  (not because it's funny but because it makes me so happy that smiling is not enough!!) She doesn't yet have permission to be baptized, but we're praying that can change.  We are going to her house on Monday with one of her member friends (she has a ton) to meet some of her family (GULP!) but hopefully that will be a really good thing.  Prayers would be awesome.

There's a lot more to write, just about people.  Oh!!  Yesterda,y one of our investigators, Vila (getting baptized 2 days after Christmas!), took us around her hometown to meet her relatives.  It was awesome, just going around and meeting people all day...  all people who were smiling and glad to meet us (weird feeling!).  Vila has a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon and wants her family to receive it as well.  We have a return appointment with her two younger brothers for Friday.  They are so super nice and said they felt really happy when they met us.  Referrals!!  Yeah!!  :) It was a neat day.

Oh I wanted to tell you all about some cool Malay phrases/things that made me laugh or gave insight.  It's such a funny language.

1) anjing laut.  literal translation: sea dog.  meaning: seal.

2) kencing manis.  literal translation: sweet urine.  meaning: diabetes.

3) orang utan.  literal translation: people of the jungle/forest.  meaning: orangutan.  haha!

4) makan angin.  literal translation: to eat wind.  meaning: to waste time.

5) cahaya mata.  literal translation: bright eyes.  meaning: child.

Cool huh? :)

So basically missionary work is awesome...  so demanding but so cool.  As a missionary we really do represent the Lord.  I try to always act (even down to my facial expression as I'm walking) so that if someone saw me (which they do) they could have a positive feeling about the church I represent.  The way I speak to people, how I behave... it's all so influential because of the black nametag I wear over my heart. But honestly I'm realizing this does not apply to missionaries only. The way we live as members is so influential on the world. Only when I got here did I really truly see how much people watch us. We must stand as a light, our lives MUST reflect the teachings of Christ.  We must emulate Christianity.  We must be pure and worthy and loving...  not only for our sakes but for the sakes of those around us.  We really do take upon us the name of Christ at baptism, and that's something that doesn't ever change.  When we're baptized we promise to make our lives a reflection of His gospel.  Something cool to think about is that when you live the Gospel, when you repent and are pure and obedient, YOU become a testimony of the Savior.  Your life, your very being, is a testimony that He is real and His gospel is true...  because of what change He has made in your life.  Have we magnified that? What have we done with His name? A humbling thought.

I love being a missionary!  I don't ever want to not be a missionary.  I always mention how hard it is but I feel like I can't get enough of this gospel I've been sent here to teach.  It's so powerful and beautiful and simple and deep.  We are all enlisted. 

Merry Christmas!  I'll talk about Christmas next week.  (Christmas music is Malaysia is horrendous.)

Love you all!
Sister Gopinath

Thursday, December 8, 2011

From the Singapore Mission AP's Newsletter (Assistants to the Mission President):

Companionship: Sister Wong and Sister Gopinath
Area: KK1  (Kota Kinabalu)

In an appointment with an investigator, they asked how she felt about the Book of Mormon. Their investigator bore a simple testimony, stating that she knew it was true, despite being a relatively new investigator. The Sisters then went on to talk about Baptism, and it's importance. She immediately clarified to the Sisters that she had already been baptized at an infant, and despite many different religious groups asking her to be baptized, she had already done so. To help answer the concern, the Sisters had her turn to Moroni chapter 8 (you know, the one that totally condemns infant baptisms...). Well, before they could tell her which verse to read, she started reading aloud from the beginning. As she read, she began to cry! Then, around verse 26 she finally said that it was enough and put it down. Needless to say the Sisters thought it was over, but their investigator said that she knew she had to be baptized! The Book of Mormon is the most powerful tool we have in conversion! And go figure that was the topic of the week for the 12-week program too!

Desire and the Pure in Heart

Marvin is baptized! My first recent convert... I felt like a proud mother watching her son. He's so good. So golden. The Spirit was there, he bore his testimony at the end. He was SO genuinely happy. I asked him how he felt and he said, "Amazing... clean. I feel clean. All my sin is gone." Wah! And so yesterday we had a lesson about missionary work, and he already has a strong desire and a testimony of missionary work. He's going to serve a full-time mission, most likely next year. He's probably going to become a member of the bishopric or the Sunday school teacher in a few months (low on priesthood, and plus he's awesome and so willing to serve). He's so solid. Such a strong desire.

I've been thinking about that. Desire. That's really what it comes down to, isn't it? That's how people change. When you really want something, you will work to get it. If you want something spiritual, and really desire it strongly enough and REMEMBER that you desire it, you will turn away from sin and temptation. Whatever you want most is what your actions will follow. It's so important to remember the big picture.

We have one investigator named Vila, and she has recently realized that she really wants to be baptized (this month, baby!). She has met trials, especially with her work schedule and coming to church. She wants to be at church. She wants to do everything she needs to do to prepare for and make her goal to be baptized by the end of this month. She's had a hard time with her boss at work, who is Muslim and thus doesn't sympathize with the desire to worship at a Christian church on Sunday, although she's tried talking to him. She's been very upset, and praying hard about that. Yesterday she called us and said she now has a new manager, who is Christian and has her on the evening shift on Sunday. What a miracle!! She prayed what I think may be some of her first prayers of gratitude. This is a testimony to me that the Lord blesses us according to the desires of our hearts. Whatever we align our actions with--including good worthy righteous things--we WILL receive. We will do our best to find a way, we will resist the temptation to take an easier road, because of our desires. And if we do the best we can to obtain what worthy things we desire, the Lord will bless us with everything else we need. He will fill in every gap and pour out blessings to us from Heaven... blessings in this life and as well as glory in the next. In the scriptures we learn that we will be judged according to our works and the desires of our hearts. I think those two things are quite closely related. We just need to make sure and pray and act so that what we desire most is what's most important from an eternal perspective. What aligns with God's will. What a happy life, if we can do that :) A lot of being pure in heart means having pure desires. Having and acting on our most righteous desires will lead to conquering the natural/carnal man and our spirit will conquer and be purified.

I've realized a lot this week what I really believe. I have met so many people who are not LDS who have such deep and strong faith. Such good people. I'm realizing deeply that it's not about being a Mormon... it's about being a Christian. I'm realizing we as the LDS really do embrace ALL truth... and I do too. We really do seek after everything virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy. Everything that promotes faith in our Savior Jesus Christ. This church's claim is that it does not differ from the original Church that Jesus Christ established on the earth. That is absolutely true, and we can each know that for ourselves through study and prayer and following God's commandments. This claim implies that our only goal is to follow, obey, and serve Jesus Christ, and we embrace everything that will most lead us to Him. It's truly about being a Christian. That's why I'm a "Mormon." Because I want to follow Jesus Christ and this is His original Gospel in its unblemished and untainted fullness! This is the clear, straight path that leads to Him. I say humbly that I'm not LDS because I love being a Mormon. I'm LDS because I love Jesus Christ. And this is why I'm in Kota Kinabalu right now.

Love you all! Have faith, stay strong, remember where you came from :)