Monday, January 30, 2012

No Effort Is Wasted - All Service Is Service to God

So Chinese New Year is almost over.  It was cool to be here for that but I'm so glad it's about done with. I thought holidays as a missionary would be awesome, but actually it's not because everyone we have to teach can't meet or went back to their villages far away to be with family.  So it's a little lonely and I get antsy.  But the fireworks were pretty cool--I watched them from Elder and Sister Larson's house (they're the senior couple here), and they live in a tower so we saw, from above, about 6 different places all doing fireworks. It was a beautiful few minutes.

Okay... so my favorite thing = really good lessons.  There's this great man named Ichabod that we've been meeting every now and then, but it's really hard to meet with him because of his work schedule.  We go weeks without seeing him, so he hasn't been progressing very fast at all, but he reads the Bible every day and also the Book of Mormon.  He comes to church whenever he doesn't have work and always comments to me about how he loves and learns from the talks at church.  Yesterday he texted us asking us to meet, because he didn't have work that day, and so I prayed a lot before that lesson and had a very spiritual time preparing, I had a really good feeling about meeting him.  When we met him, he was very happy (he's been very happy lately whenever I do see him).  He received whatever we teach so thoughtfully.  We began to teach him about faith and how faith in Christ leads us to action.  He somehow started talking about his feelings about the church... like about how the last few months he's come here instead of his old church.  He said it was interesting because even though his old church is a lot closer to him, and thus easier to go to on Sundays, he's lost his desire to go there and just wants to come to the Church of Jesus Christ.  He said he's noticed a "change" since he's been coming to this church.  Something inside of him.  He said he's been thinking on his own about being baptized (!!!!!).  He expressed a few thoughts about how he's already been baptized in another church and how this church hasn't yet reached his village in Indonesia, but we bore testimony of the restored priesthood power and how he still needs to be baptized by someone holding priesthood authority.  He agreed.  We also told him how although he might be the first from his village to accept the gospel, the church WILL be in his village someday.  He said he wants to think and pray about being baptized (committed himself).  We gave him 2 Nephi 31 to read and pray about, which he received gratefully.  The Spirit was strong.  He knows this is the true Church of Jesus Christ, and it was amazing to see how the Spirit has been working on him the past few weeks as he's come to church, read, and prayed.  It was the best lesson I'd ever been to with him.  Gonna keep following up and trying to meet him soon.

Also Flower is amazing, getting baptized on Saturday.  She was a referral from one of the branch presidency (who is like 21 years old--she's 22).  She is like a member already... she understands so deeply, she is so spiritual, willing to serve, comes to everything, always taking notes, hungry to read the word of God, and is quick to share her testimony.  Her testimony of prayer is rock solid. Her family isn't totally supportive, but the opposition has strengthened her testimony.  She's told them "I know that what I'm doing is right."  And she really, really does. She's already made the decision to serve a mission, which I find incredible.  After she's baptized she wants to come out and teach with us whenever she can. She was so, so prepared to receive the restored Gospel.  We had a really great lesson about temples with her.  The Spirit was strong and we each joyfully made a resolve to keep the temple in our sights, live worthily, and get there as soon as possible.

Ah.  It's so great.  I truly get to spend time with some of the most exceptional people in the world.

Mosiah 2:17 teaches that when we serve those around us, we are serving God. I'm beginning to realize that whatever I do now for others will be accepted by God, even if it's not accepted by the person I was trying to serve.  No effort is wasted because all service is service to God, who will, of course, freely accept my love.

God answers prayers.  This is His church.  I know that for myself, independently of the opinions of others. Our testimony grows as we share it with others.  Let it shine.

Sister Gopi

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hello Sekajap, Visa Run, and Heartache

Hey, sorry this email is late and shorter.  This week I went to Singapore for 2 days to renew my visa, so I was really busy.  Singapore is such a cool city.  I would live there I think... except for how expensive it is.  I ate dragonfruit (beautiful and tastes like a giant mild kiwi! so good!!),
Dragon fruit grows on a cactus

bonded with some incredible/hilarious fellow missionaries there, talked to some memorable people, missed my original booked flight back but still made it back to KK after much worrying.

It got me thinking a lot about wealth and material things.  As a missionary I have thought about things in a different way, for some reason.  I guess I have seen some very poor people here in KK, and then some very rich people in other places.  Material things are so kosong, empty.  They appear so fulfilling and desirable, but do not satisfy.  It creates a false sense of security and leads us to neglect of our spiritual needs.  Maybe when we have an excess of material things, we are less aware of our need for God.  I wrote a longer "essay" on this in a notebook on the plane.  I need to think more about this.  But Singapore got me thinking, because it's such a "warehouse."  Lots of new buildings and high-quality things.  But at the end of the day there's no substance to it, and we must not let things like that distract us from our true purpose in life--which, in the end, has nothing to do with material things.

Also I've been thinking about how this work is so in God's hands.  He is the one who is working among people.  I will never teach someone who God has not been working on for years--I alone cannot change anyone, or bring someone to a point where they're ready to come closer to Christ.  Missionaries alone are powerless.  They're a tool, a small important link in a chain, a defining paragraph in a novel.  But God is doing a great work, and missionaries are important.  The Lord is working with His Spirit among His children 24/7, while missionaries only work during the day.  It's like in Jacob 5:72.  The Lord labors with us all.  It's His work.

Leaving KK for a day and a half was kind of a time also to reflect on my experiences the last 3 months.  It was an opportunity to appreciate all the miracles I've seen here, and forgive KK for all of the heartache (disappointment doesn't cut it) I've experienced here as well.  Just let it go and realize it's a process, and everything has happened the way it's supposed to.  Amazing things have happened, as well as awful things.  All of it is for my good.  I trust the Lord.  Missionary work really does break your heart, regularly, and I'm not exaggerating.  But I pray for patience and love and faith, and I'm always blessed with enough of it, and can make it.  The Lord is my light.

Hopefully this email made a little bit of sense, even though these are things just bouncing around in my head lately.  There's nowhere and no one I'd rather be right now.  Our purpose here on this earth is truly grand.  Everything choice we make matters so much.  Our families matter so much.  The Word of Wisdom was inspired of God.  The Book of Mormon is His word, and I know that directly from God.  Just the other day I prayed with a sincere heart to know again that the Book of Mormon is true, and I felt the light of Heaven illuminate and nourish my soul.  I know it is everything it claims to be, it is from God.  It nourishes me like nothing else as it teaches the teachings of Christ and testifies of Him.  I'm honored to have been sent into the world to testify of the same One.

Sister Gopinath

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Walking a Little Taller

Hello again!  This has been a long, and crazy week.  Working with Sister Song is great!  She is so open and fearless and sweet and talks to everyone. She is a big strength to me and we complement each other well--she is surely strong where I am weak.  I'm so blessed she was sent here!  I am trying learn some Chinese from here, I hear it a lot more often these days :)

Okay so first of all our area DOUBLED in size today. They took out a pair of Elders from KK :( so we sisters are taking over their area, which I am very unfamiliar with, and also which is very far away!  It's a little overwhelming but we are inheriting a couple of solid investigators from them, which is always great for us. So it's gonna be a new adventure trying to learn the new area.  It's so. so. big.  Ahhh!  But I'm excited too, I feel like good things are gonna happen.  It's pretty exciting as well.  We're gonna be busier.

It's been brought to my attention by Sister Song that I look down all the time--when I pause to think during lessons, and also I look at the floor when I walk to make sure I don't step on anything weird. I've been working to change that this last week, it's made much bigger of a difference than I expected. I feel different. I feel stronger. Looking up, walking a little taller (although I already feel so awkwardly tall here), looking people more directly in the eye... it's changing the way I think. You should try it.

Do you wanna hear about my favorite lesson we had this week?  There's this girl who is living with an active member family (solid. member. referral.) and she has come to church twice. Her name is Dana. She is 19 years old and very mature, we met her on Sunday and scheduled an appointment with her. We traveled over an hour on a very hot sweaty bus to get to the spa she works at--run by the same member family--so we taught her in the back of a spa. A very tranquil environment, dark purple walls and purple drapes throughout the room. Quite an exciting venue. Dana is really sweet and seemed a little shy, but as we taught her she opened up more and felt comfortable asking questions. We learned she's read the Book of Mormon up to around 2 Nephi 4, just on her own, without even knowing what the Book of Mormon was. She said she felt that it contained a lot of things that were relevant to her life, but she didn't know what the Book of Mormon really was or where it came from or what it meant. We taught her how to pray, shared the Restoration and her face lit up as she learned why there were so many churches, for she said "There are so many different churches, but I could never find one that could open my heart.  Now I know why, and now I finally feel  like I've found one."  The Spirit was strong, she accepted the invitation to pray about the Book of Mormon. I then told her that one way we get closer to God is by obeying His commandments, and one commandment is baptism. She said she'd never been baptized in any other church, so I invited her to be baptized in a few weeks.  She happily accepted, I might even use the word thrilled. We picked a date, and she expressed concern not knowing how to prepare. We told her it was just going to be through meeting with us so we could teach her, and doing things like praying and reading and going to church. We assured her we'd be there with her every step of the way. She then gave her first verbal prayer, and it was so heartfelt. It was so cool. It was one of those times where I felt like, this is why I'm here, this is what it's about. I felt edified, and know Dana did too.

We've met a lot of people this week... and we keep meeting more.  We keep going forward. We're focusing on getting referrals from members, and so far it's looking like a really good thing. Referrals really are the way to go.

I was reading a talk by Elder Holland today "The Ministry of Angels". I was really touched and was reminded that the Lord really does extend heavenly help to us regularly.  Heaven IS near, not far away.  We can be reminded of that by remembering that everything good in our lives come from God directly, and by praying often and sincerely.  President Monson said, "Prayer is the passport to Spiritual power."

Stay strong! Remember to pray!

Sister Gopinath

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Coolest, Hardest and Best

Hi!  :)

So first of all, can I say that this is the best mission in the world?   Our goal for 2011 was to see 800 baptisms.  November came and we were WAY short, like in need of a serious miracle.  I honestly didn't think it would happen, and it was out of our control, which was wrong thinking on my part.  But we set big goals and all of the missionaries worked harder with faith.  We came out with 813 people who made the decision to be baptized last year.  Seemed completely impossible.  We were super blessed.  Faith precedes the miracle.  I can apply this to the work I do here on a weekly basis.  So just wanted to give you a hint of how cool all the people (locals and missionaries as well) here are.

Sister Wong went home.   :(   What a change.  It's so different here without her.  She was absolutely the trainer I needed--Heavenly Father knows me perfectly.  Sister Wong is awesome because a missionary is truly who she is.  There is no such thing as her two sides, the missionary Sister Wong and the real Sister Wong...  the missionary Sister Wong IS the real Sister Wong.   Amazing.  She'll be sorely missed, and has done SO MUCH good throughout her missionary service.

My new companion's name is Sister Song :) She is so sweet!  She's a native from Singapore and speaks English, Mandarin, and learned Malay in the mission as well.  She has been a missionary 3 months longer I have (hers was the MTC group before me).  She's great, very open, and sensitive as well.  I'm really excited to serve with her.  We're going to have a ton of fun.

Will went out with us all day yesterday.  She just was confirmed on Sunday and already volunteered to go out and do missionary work!  She shared her testimony with like 3-4 people we met yesterday.  It was really cool.  It took me YEARS of experience in the church to get to the point where I felt comfortable sharing the gospel with people outside of church.  She's a good example and a reminder to me the importance of sharing the gospel, and the responsibility we have as ordinary members to reach out and offer people an opportunity to learn.

Last week we also did a "mini mission" where 3 girls preparing for their missions (Jen, Lola, and Elsie) stayed with us for three days and two nights.  We studied Preach My Gospel, had good language studies, taught them about record keeping in the area book, did role plays, and gave them plenty of teaching opportunities in teaching and finding situations.  It was awesome, they really stepped up.  Great experience.  They're gonna be awesome missionaries.  The members here are so incredibly strong.

So yesterday was also the first full day Sister Song and I proselyted together, and by the evening we were exhausted.  We met and talked to a ton of people but it seemed like no one really wanted to learn.  We were trying to meet people, but everyone seemed to be Muslim or something else...  until at 9:00 at night we walked by a bench where a young Chinese guy was sitting down and we sat down near him.  Sister Song started talking to him, and it came up that his parents had passed away.  She began to share about the Plan of Salvation and eternal families.  This was in Mandarin, so I got to just sit and listen and didn't know what they were saying at the time.  But I could feel that the spirit was there and that he was touched by what Sister Song was sharing.  He earnestly agreed to meet with us later this week and we came out on cloud nine--all of our exhaustion was gone.  It was a great contact.  It goes to show that you just have to keep going even when you're tired, and keep exercising faith and giving it all you have.  Miracles will follow.

Missionary work is the coolest, seriously.  I can't believe I am actually doing this.  Last week I invited someone to be baptized during my first meeting with him, and he accepted and picked a date.  Stuff like that seemed insane and impossible just 4 months ago.  It's just so cool here.

Anyone who has the option to serve a mission and is choosing not to go, or to postpone it until further notice, is making a huge mistake.  You cannot learn what you learn on the mission any other way.  It's years and years of valuable life experience (and spiritual experience!) packed into 18 to 24 months.  It cannot be replaced or substituted.  If you are young or getting old/have this option, GO ON YOUR MISSION.  It's the most valuable thing you could do!  The hardest for sure, but the BEST.  Heavenly Father is slowly shaping me into more of the person I have the potential to be.  I'm so grateful to be here.

Also, is it true that David Archuleta got a mission call?   Everyone in our mission is talking about it.

Until next week (remember your morning prayers!  I think that's the most important time of day to pray!),

Sister Gopinath