Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lightbulb Moment

It's been a good week! We met President and Sister Mains!!! They are SO nice! I was worried that they wouldn't be the same and President and Sister Clark (who are now home--President Clark already has an injury from water-skiing haha). They are NOT the same, but it's totally fine. The Mainses are wonderful. They are very warm-hearted and loving about everything. President Mains came and did interviews with each of us missionaries the day before district conference, and talked to us a lot about how he is here to serve as our Mission President, and they're also here as our parents for the time being, because we are far from our actual parents right now. They were just so loving toward each of us :) We are all happy and excited that they're here.

District conference was wonderful! Elder Watson of the Seventy came and was with us for a few days. He and I talked about how I have family in Bangalore, which he thought was great and he said the Church is becoming quite strong there. Actually after the conference in KL, he was on his way to visit Bangalore. I told him to tell it hello for me :) It was very neat to talk with him. He is very pure, and very aware of those around him. Also very tall. :)

There were many testimonies that were born by new members that were so touching! One of them was Andi, who is from Puchong and who was baptized while I was there in Puchong :) She is the cutest thing ever... I must have mentioned her. She is probably 16 years old. She shared her conversion story and I wish you could have just been there. She has such a strong and deep and mature spirit already, although she is a cute and happy 16-year-old. She talked about how she was raised Buddhist but as she got older she felt that Jesus was her Savior. She was invited to church by one of the Young Women in the Puchong branch (Raquel), and when she came she felt so happy and realized as she was learning that this gospel was true and that it answered all of her questions. She was so adorable. I can't wait to someday see her with her own family--husband and children. I felt that she is going to have a strong family.

There was a talk given by a young man who is going to leave on his mission soon--to serve here with us in the Singapore Mission.  Some of his non-member family was there. We were talking with them after the conference, and we met his aunt, who we discovered really wants to learn! She met with missionaries decades ago, and still has a Book of Mormon and actually keeps it by her bed when she sleeps. She is having trouble with her teenage son, but her nephew who is leaving on his mission (Prince Wei) also has had struggles. He's changed a lot recently, apparently, and that has touched the hearts of many of his family members. So his aunt is one of those prepared people--she is so lovely and so nice! But, her husband is against the church. We're not sure yet as to why, but he wouldn't allow his family to go to church (that day he said yes because their nephew was giving a farewell talk, so he understood it as a family-oriented gathering). So we're trying to figure out how to approach this situation... it should be interesting. This would actually be my first time dealing with a misunderstanding husband. Prayer will have to play a large role.

Jack is having a lot of trials hit his life, just like a lot of people when they are in their conversion process. He is at a point when he feels peace and happiness only when he is close to the Spirit, and he recognizes that and holds on to that. He did a small relapse with his smoking the other day--something very stressful happened at his work, and so at his break he smoked a cigarette. He told us the next day, and told us humbly and admitting that it was wrong. I didn't feel frustrated with him, I just felt love and concern. We talked about it and realized that he literally didn't know what else to turn to in a moment of intense stress. The Spirit said "prayer." It seems maybe an obvious answer, but it was unmistakably put into my heart by the Spirit--it felt like a pocket of light that just popped into my heart. I offered that as a suggestion, and testified of the Spirit that prayer brings--the comfort, the calm, and the power over temptation. Jack had a lightbulb moment and said he would pray the next time he felt stressed. That was a great moment where the Spirit was the real teacher. We're very proud of Jack. He's really progressing and going to be strong. 

Other than that... trying to find more solid investigators... chugging along. Life is good. There's nowhere I'd rather be. The Gospel is true. God loves each of us. Families truly can be together forever, through the ordinances of the holy Temple. I'm grateful for the Restoration of such ordinances and I'm grateful that such blessings have been offered to me and my family. I am here trying to help extend those blessings to the people around me here in Malaysia.

Sister Gopinath

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lows and Highs

So, after I wrote last week, our lives fell a little bit apart. I called Freddy (who was an amazing new Christian who had brought his family to church, who asked us for a church tour, who was reading from the Book of Mormon every day, and is way in-tune with the Spirit) and he said that he's too busy to meet, and his life has been complicated lately (moving to a new house) so he felt it would be easier if he just followed his family to the Methodist church. He wouldn't agree to meet us again, but I invited him again to read the chapter in the Book of Mormon he'd been assigned and to pray about it. He said he would, I told him we'd always be here for him, and we ended the conversation on a friendly note. I then crawled into my bed and cried, and cried. He was so close to the truth. I thought of his wife and children, who I haven't even met yet, but who are looking for truth and for God. I thought of the times he'd felt and recognized the Spirit during our lessons with him. I know it's not over, this isn't the end of his story or his family's story. While I was crying (it'd been a while since I'd cried), it was weird to observe myself. I kept examining or checking myself for selfish motives... was I sad that now we have to figure something else to do on Thursday afternoons instead of teaching him, was I sad because I won't be able to tell people I was there when he and his family were baptized... no. I cried with my heart and I was crying purely out of love and sadness that Freddy and his family are being kept from receiving the blessings of the Gospel that my family and I have received and will receive. I was crying because of charity. I tell you this humbly. It was a purifying and defining experience for me, and it was completely not about me.

We also found out that day that another of our solid investigators left the country suddenly and has no plans to come back anytime soon, which was really a blow. And yet another one of our investigators who has been quitting smoking after it being a lifetime habit.. well, I will have to tell you in person someday.

There is one boy I have to tell you more about, though, Jack. I talked about him in my last email. He is the highlight of our day every time we see him. He has been through SO much... he is from the capital city of Nepal, and from what he says it sounds like a very sketchy place. He has seen and been involved in many terrible things in his life. He's had a hard life, a lot of it due to his own mistakes. But he has been touched by the love and light of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. He is repenting, sincerely. He prays in his head as he walks to work so that God will be nearby him. He reads the Book of Mormon and has felt it was true from the moment he saw his copy being pulled out of Sister Noorda's bag as we were giving it to him. He wants to memorize every page... he savors it. He is constantly looking forward to Sunday, because that means he gets to come to church. He has sincere questions and he's finding that they're beginning to be answered. A few days ago, we sat down with him for our 2nd formal lesson with a baptism date in our minds that we planned to offer to him that lesson. After the opening prayer, he asked us what the next step was, what he could do to improve besides reading and praying and coming to church. We talked about how baptism is the gate to the path of discipleship, the beginning (not end goal of) our spiritual lives. He got it. He normally talks a lot, but at this moment he was quiet. Sister Noorda invited him to be baptized on August 26.  Jack sat there quietly and thought about it for a few seconds. He then replied, "I think I should," with a grin. I wish you could have been there. It was exhilarating. We asked him a minute later how he felt about this decision, and he said, "I'm excited!" He asked us to give him a list of commandments (and "things to avoid") that he needs to follow before baptism, and that he would obey all of it. We told him we'd teach him the commandments line upon line, but his heart is so contrite and "willing to submit to all things." He is quick to recognize and believe the word of God. The Holy Ghost has guided him and helped him recognize Jesus Christ as the source to which he can look for a remission of his sins. He is a great example to me. We are really excited about him. He is another one of those people whom it is an absolute privilege to be teaching. (You will get to know him a little, President--you will most likely interview him next month before he is baptized).

Also!! I'm not sure if I told you how Devi (the man from Bangalore who wanted baptism) has been insanely busy with work and hasn't been able to meet us, and then we found out he is going back to India for a few months (undefined period of time)? I was SO bummed that he was leaving. His ticket was for last night. But he called us and told us "bad news"--that something with his visa requires him to stay in Malaysia until August, so he had to cancel/postpone his trip back. He was sad because he was supposed to see his cousin's wedding, but he said that we can meet him anytime now because he had already taken a 2 month leave from work. So now we get to teach him again!! I am so happy!!

Other than that... Chinese Anton has been passing the sacrament on most Sundays, and has been called as the Branch Librarian, which warms my heart. In his white shirt and tie :).  Also, Nigerian Anton also got the priesthood and went out to buy a set of white shirts and ties, which he now wears every Sunday at church. As I watch them, I feel like a proud mother, even though both of these guys are in their 30's. It's great.

In other news... at church, Kripala randomly (as in, interrupted a conversation I was having with a member, and) gave me a box of "drink mix." He said sometime to the effect of, "I see you sometimes feel very hot! The other day I was drinking this, I made it with ice, and it was very nice! It was so nice, I felt relaxed and all cooled off. Very nice mah, this is for you." Me and the member both laughed a little and I stuck it in my bag. Later when we got home, I was looking at it and discovered, to my surprise, that it was actually a box of packets of medication for urinary tract infections. (To clarify--I have never experienced such an infection.) I laughed for a very long time. I don't know whether he knew what he was giving me or what he himself had been drinking. He was either being sneaky, or oblivious. Either way, it was hilarious.

Being a missionary is great. I love it. Sister Noorda is amazing and hilarious, which helps. The Gospel is true and is the power of God unto the Salvation of His children. I firmly believe and know that God lives and loves each one of us.

Sister Gopinath

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Welcome, Sister Noorda!

Hello! What a week this has been! I had a blast in Singapore picking up Sister Noorda. I got to see President and Sister Clark right before they left, which was a huge blessing. And I got to be there for and participate in the orientation meetings (as well as the trainer orientation meeting), which was a joy. It was kind of surreal to be there as a trainer, and think back on my experiences since I was a new missionary. It made me aware of how much I've changed, because of how differently I felt being in the same type of meeting. I'm really grateful for the experiences I've had, although difficult, for making me the (still-developing) person and missionary I am today. 

I was nervous to be training, but now having been in it for a week, I realize I didn't need to feel that way. First of all, because Sister Noorda is awesome. She and I have a lot of fun together, and she pushes herself out of her comfort zone on her own, which is really admirable and helpful. Even though she is nervous to talk to people, she still does it. She is going to learn a lot really fast. I am going to learn a lot from her. On Sunday we taught a lesson to a girl we had just met (she came with a member to church), and the lesson was basically about being clean from sin through Jesus Christ. It led perfectly into teaching the doctrine of baptism. To any new missionary, bringing up baptism is intimidating. But there came just the right moment to extend the invitation to follow Christ by being baptized, and I backed off a little. After a second, Sister Noorda stepped in and invited the girl to be baptized, and she accepted, saying that she felt a need and wanted to become clean. It was wonderful. (We will not be the ones to continue teaching that girl, because she lives far away, but she is going to be meeting with the Elders who are near her house.) I was really proud of Sister Noorda.

Dr. C came to church for the first time on Sunday!! It was a great fast and testimony meeting too. He absolutely loved it. Sister Noorda asked him after church if he felt the Holy Ghost, and he said emphatically, "Yes! Did you?!" He was glowing! Then he was telling us how he'd been reading the Book of Mormon last night in Alma and Moroni, and he had been deeply moved and inspired. He is a very spiritual man. He has been trying and looking forward to coming to church, and he finally did and had a really spiritual experience. I am humbled that I get to teach him.

Also, someone new came to church. His name is Jack, and he is from Nepal. He works as a security guard near where the missionaries used to live, so he has met many Sister missionaries in the last few years. He's kind of like a young troubled artist, with many unanswered questions and inner struggles he doesn't tell anyone about. He is a really great guy. Sister Pinkston and I had invited him to church two weeks ago, but he slept in instead of coming, but he told us, "The time is coming. I know I have to go there." He comes from a Hindu background, but finds his heart drawn to Jesus Christ. This Sunday he came to church, and it was his first time in a Christian church. He seemed to enjoy it, and had to leave in a rush but told me, "I will come again! Are you going to visit me later?" Of course we were!

So yesterday we met him (first lesson), and as we were sitting down, we simply asked, "How has your day been today?" He replied, "Excellent. It's been a great day." We asked him why, and he told us, "I haven't smoked or drunk since June 30th (Saturday)." Apparently he has been a chain smoker (25-60 cigarettes a day) and a frequent drinker for the last 14 years (since early teens). But he said that on Saturday, he decided within himself that since he was going to church that Sunday, he didn't want to smoke or drink anymore. And he stopped cold-turkey. We never even told him to do that! It was incredible! I asked him why he did that, and he said he didn't know. But he's tried before and has never been able to overcome his addictions, but now he has found motivation. God's Spirit is so REAL! He is working among us constantly, even when the missionaries are not there. 

He told us that if he could, he would spend hours in church every single day so that he could have his heart and mind in the right place. We talked about daily prayer, to which he committed. He asked us, "So, what's next?" and we taught the doctrine of baptism as the way that Christ has invited us to follow Him. He knows he is going to be baptized, to commit to being a "1000% a disciple of Jesus Christ," as he put it, but he wants to learn and fill his mind with the Savior first so he can be ready to share His testimony of Him to anyone who asks why he became Christian. He is amazing and such a prepared soul. We are really excited about him and hope to help him set a baptismal date very soon.

So as a spiritual thought, go and read Ephesians 6:10-20.

I know that God is real. He lives and loves us. I love being a missionary and sharing the Gospel of Christ. The Spirit of God is real and has incredible, very real power to touch the hearts of God's children. I know that through Christ's sacrifice, we can become completely clean, without spot, eventually even as He is so we can inherit God's kingdom in Heaven.

Sister Gopinath