Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Anton's Baptism

This was a good week... a big highlight was Anton's baptism. He was ready. After he passed his interview last week, we sat down and had a really spiritual lesson on prayer. The kind of lesson where you just feel God's love and you just want to connect with Him. We set personal goals on how we would change our prayers so we could have more meaningful experiences. Anton then said the closing prayer and you could tell something had changed for the better. It was awesome! 

His baptism was two days later (this past Sunday) and it was great. There was a good amount of people that came. Anton was ready. He was baptized, and then after he changed his clothes he stood and gave a humble testimony about how he'd been wanting this for a long time. How being close to God isn't easy, but lately somehow he's found the strength to do what he's needed to do. He's seen a difference in his life. He bore testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. It was so awesome! 

Another awesome thing was that the drain in the baptismal font wasn't working. So we, along with two other missionaries, a member named Amon, and then Anton, decided we had to empty the font by hand. We found a bunch of buckets and started hauling the water out of the font into the church's kitchen, and we dumped the water out the window in the kitchen. It was crazy! There was so much water. We probably dumped around 150 buckets full of water. It was hard work, but it was so much fun also. Anton was glowing with peace and joy as he helped empty the font. He really earned his baptism :) We laughed the whole time. It was something I wish everyone could experience... voluntarily doing grueling physical labor (kind of) alongside those we love under the light of our brother having just entered the waters of baptism. It was so happy and it felt good and satisfying. We all got a little wet. :)

Another highlight was something I actually wasn't there for. The Sister AP's went out with us for one more day after I last wrote, and something really cool happened! There's this man named Dr. C who I called last week--he had met with missionaries before but stopped for some reason. Well I set up an appointment and then Sister Pinkston went to it with Sister Kubota. They came back and told me a little about his story, and I am way excited to start teaching him. He is a heart surgeon by trade, a Harvard graduate actually. He was raised Buddhist. Sister Pinkston says he is a sweet man. They shared about eternal marriage/eternal families, and about a living-day prophet. He said, "Why haven't I heard this before?!" He accepted a baptismal date! I'm excited; I get to meet him soon. Great things are ahead. 

One amazing and very relevant thing about Jesus Christ is that he is full of second chances. It is never too late. His arms are opened wide, and He will take you as you are and will lift you up no matter where you are coming from. He is full of second chances, with healing in His wings. I testify of the power He has to heal our hearts. He lives. I feel it every time I search to feel it, every time I pray. 

Sister Gopinath

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Difficult, Precious, and Grateful

This week was quite fun. The Sister AP's* came to do splits with us, and yesterday I was with Sister Kubota all day (she is known as the most intense, hardcore sister missionary in the mission  :) ). It was great, we had fun. Our appointments canceled so we called some people from the area book who I had never met but had been contacted by missionaries before, and three of them agreed to meet us later this week! Then we went out and explored this part of Cheras I'd never been to before... it was a mostly Muslim area, but we found a place with a few Buddhists and Hindus. I wish I could put a picture here of that neighborhood. It was a really cool place... like a city-village in the rainforest. It was the least civilized part of KL I've been to yet. There might have been a dirt road also. It made me miss KK. :)

After that we went to a member's house for dinner. We shared a message and asked if they had any friends that we could meet, friends that could start learning the Gospel. Brother Kung said that he had a friend who lived nearby who said he would come to church sometime, who we could meet. We then made a plan to go visit that friend later that night, but right at the time we were going to go see him, that very friend showed up at Brother Kung's house! We talked to him and invited him to start learning about Christianity (he is Buddhist). He agreed to meet us next week at Brother Kung's house, already knowing our purpose because of his awesome friend who always talks about the Gospel with him! Missionary work is the best especially when members are doing it!! 

The other Sister AP is now Sister Burtis, who was with me in the MTC! It was so fun to see her again. I love her! I have been reflecting back on my experiences in the MTC and in KK--both of those places seem quite far away, and they were difficult for me at the time but now I look back and I feel only sweetness and happiness and love. I look back on the first half of my mission as a very valuable and meaningful time. Now instead of seeing the hardships, I can see/focus on the things that I've learned, which are precious to me, which I couldn't have learned any other way.

Anton (from Nigeria) is getting baptized on Sunday! :) So excited! He's awesome. The Gospel Doctrine teacher, Brother Renner, is going to baptize him. They are good friends, we are really excited!

(Next week I will write a better email... I will come prepared with stories from the week. There are always stories, but I need to prioritize which ones are the best ones/should make it into the email home.)

The Gospel is true! Jesus Christ lives and is our Savior who satisfied the demands of justice, who paid the price in full, the price we could not pay ourselves. Because of that, if we follow Him, we can be redeemed, cleansed, freed from sin. I'm forever grateful for that, and will be continually more grateful as my life goes on.

Sister Gopinath

*Assistants to the President of the Mission

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Halfway Point

 This week was great. Especially talking to family makes for a great weekend. I love and miss you all. I have an incredible, incredible family.

Miracle! Deba has been struggling to quit smoking... and this past week he got sick with a bad fever, and hasn't worked in a while (also hasn't met with us in a while). I called him yesterday and asked him how he was, and he said he still was very sick. I asked how his smoking was going, and said that he has totally stopped since he got the fever. YEAH!!! This is a gift from God! If God's way of helping him stop smoking is getting him sick and withdrawing him from it that way, also can! I am fine with that :) This is a springboard opportunity for him to continue progressing. I was super excited.

To be honest, I don't have many updates/things I didn't already talk about on the phone... tomorrow I am halfway through my mission. What a strange thought. So much has happened, and so much is still coming. It feels fast at first, but it also feels like an eternity when I think of all I've experienced here. I'm really grateful that God sent me here. There's nowhere I'd rather be.

Here is something I read yesterday, that has been on my mind.

"'Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ' (Gal. 6:2). The law of Christ, which it is our duty to fulfill, is the bearing of the cross. My brother's burden which I must bear is not only his outward situation, . . . but quite literally his sin. And the only way to bear that sin is by forgiving it. . . . Forgiveness is the Christlike suffering which it is the Christian's duty to bear." 

This struck me for a few reasons. I felt like this is really relevant to me, because as a missionary, I'm quite aware of, or sensitive to, sin. At the same time, I am required to carry a lot of love in my heart and to act on that love. I am required to carry a lot of burdens, and a lot of those burdens come from sin - perhaps most of them. I am learning again how to forgive. Usually it's not because someone did something directly TO me (it usually has nothing to do with me personally), but that someone inflicted themselves by doing something wrong and therefore, I am hurt. The natural response is to withdraw. But as a missionary (and also in your role of friend or family member), that cannot be. We can't withdraw whenever someone does wrong, because often when someone does wrong that's when they most need love. People change, repent, usually to follow feelings of love. And for me the only way I can give that is if I forgive them -- God will forgive whom he will forgive, but I personally need to forgive everyone. That is the way to bear others' burdens when that burden is sin. This is the Christian way. It is not easy, but it is required, and a very healing thing. It's healing not only for the recipient of the forgiveness, but especially for the one forgiving. When I forgive someone, the poison inside of me is lost and replaced with soothing peace and strength. I'm a big fan. Maybe we all find someone in need of our forgiveness, and follow Christ by forgiving that person.

Sister Gopinath

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Love is Action

Hey! So updates... last week we had our last Zone Conference together with President Clark. Zone Conference is so inspiring... it's like EFY for missionaries.  I have very bittersweet feelings about President Clark going home at the end of June... we probably won't see him again before he goes home, because our mission is so big (he has to take an airplane to go to each Zone Conference).  He is such an amazing mission President.  I trust him and love him a lot--he does literally ALL he possibly can for us and for this mission.  He has the Spirit of God with him.  He gave an inspiring conference about how to receive revelation/inspiration.  He bore his last testimony to us that he knows there is a living God, and that truth is eternal.  Truth stands unchanged no matter what we do, or how other people respond.  It strengthened my faith. 

Also a number of other very strong young missionaries are going home in June as well. Some of our very strongest Elders are leaving us.  The mission is becoming full of green/new missionaries... I forget the number but soon, something like like 75% missionaries here (including me) will have been here for less than a year (or something like that).  We are hoping for miracles, hoping to do things this area has never seen before. 

I finally got a nametag in English!  It's really exciting to be wearing "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" after wearing "Gereja Yesus Kristus Orang Suci Zaman Akhir" for 9 months.  They're the same, of course, but I grew up knowing the English name :) And now more people will be able to read and understand my nametag.  Yes!

I have been sick for the last 3 days, and have had to stay home for a lot of it so there's not actually a ton of news.  I will update you about Anton (from Nigeria), though. 

Anton, like I mentioned, has been reading the Book of Mormon.  As we've met with him, we've realized and really seen that he has changed.  The way he carries himself has changed.  The way he talks to us has changed. The questions he has have changed, as well as the answers to questions we ask him.  He has become more open, loving, trusting, kind, receptive... a lot of things I can really describe in words.  He is amazing. I asked him if he himself has felt a difference in his life lately, and he said that yes he has.  He said he feels like God is all around him.  We taught him about faith, repentance, baptism, and the Holy Ghost the other night, and he said on his own that he feels like these things would complete change a person.  He talked about a change of heart, and linked it to the feelings he's been experiencing lately.  He connects all these "dots" on his own, and I know it's the Spirit of God.  He's awesome... he can/is preparing well to be baptized at the end of the month.

That's the biggest thing going on lately... we are trying to help people like Devi and Kripala to stop their smoking.  They are both doing well.  Kripala didn't smoke for almost 3 days, which is more progress than he maybe has ever done.  Going from 2 packs of strong cigarettes a day to zero for three days... it's amazing.  He is finally finding the motivation and strength to change. 

I read somewhere the other day that "love is not in possession, but in participation."  That really stuck with me for some reason.  That just because I am "a missionary" doesn't mean I am automatically filled with love for all people, or just because I hold the position of being someone's older sister doesn't mean that I don't need to show my love.  The virtue is not in standing in the role.  That is the thing--showing love by participating, by ACTING in that role as a loving sister, as a loving representative of Jesus Christ/missionary, as a loving friend, daughter, or whatever else I am to someone.  It is by actions, service, participation in others' lives, reaching out--not respected labels alone--that I experience that love.  As we take action by prayerfully serving and reaching out those who need us, we are filled with the love of Christ.  I've felt that in my life; it's something I am working on every day.

Sister Gopinath

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Banyak KL Lagi (More from Kuala Lumpur)

So, good week! Anton got baptized on Sunday, and it was a really nice service. He was really ready. My favorite part was that he decided on his own to fast on his baptism day... wow, he is solid. He has such a good heart. He bore his simple and deep testimony after he was baptized, just saying, "I believe in Jesus, I believe the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon are true, and I will follow Jesus all my life." It was awesome. There were some investigators there who were really touched, and also members and missionaries who were touched as well :)

One of those investigators is another one named Anton; he is from Nigeria. He is great. He should be baptized in a few weeks, and he's been really making progress although we've only known him a short while. We have him a Book of Mormon and he has been reading it every day. We asked him if he's been praying about it, and he told us on Sunday that he feels like he got an answer. He said he was on the way to church that morning and thinking about it, and he just got a feeling that it was true and that he believed it. He then had a really good experience at church and also at the other Anton's baptism, which was after church. He called us after and told us that he got every Sunday off of work for the next month, and that he wants us to start seriously teaching him--texting him scriptures and questions every day so he can learn it all. We've got work to do. The Spirit of God works on people in ways that seriously do amaze me. 

We have another investigator named Donald, who is from Myanmar. He is good and just confused about all the many different doctrines he's been taught throughout his life. Interestingly enough, I think teaching him is the closest to teaching people in the US that I've experienced, from what I understand. He is educated and religiously experienced, an intellectual man, and just is trying to figure out whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and whether or not the Book of Mormon is the word of God. Our lessons consist of him asking us questions, reading us verses from the Book of Mormon that confuse him, and then us answering his questions with scriptures (or analogies/personal testimony). I've been amazed at how much the Spirit has helped us teach him. Always, something he says highlights a Gospel principle, and almost always a scripture comes to my mind, or to Sister Pinkston's mind. Neither of us are "scriptorians,"  so to say--we are definitely both more like the weak and humble category--but something always comes, something always  flows, so question after question gets answered. It's one of those things where before my mission, I would never have been seriously able to picture myself being able to do it. But the Lord cares enough to help us. Our lessons have all gone well so far, and he is reading and praying. He said on his own, "I don't know if Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I need to pray." My happiest moments in teaching are when the investigator makes a connection like that on their own. Very cool.

Life is good, KL is great... I love being a missionary. It's not without it's challenges, but like life in general, it's worth it in the end and you wouldn't actually change any of it. 

2 Nephi 25:29.

Sister Gopinath