Monday, December 30, 2013

One Christmas down, one to go!

I am celebrating my first Christmas in Sibu, East Malaysia! While back home there is probably lots of snow, here we have rain, but fortunately there is not too much of it!

So Christmas morning I woke up to cook some delicious Apple French Toast for our apartment. Unfortunately the only French bread we could find was the kind that already had garlic on it... haha.. I used it anyway! It turned out great for using garlic bread! My mom usually fixes Apple french toast back home every Christmas morning so it made me feel a little closer to home.

We opened presents from our families & from the "secret Santa" we did between the elders in our apartment. I gave my companion a sweet yellow watch because yellow is his favorite color & I gave a saurong to another elder. (I'll have to send a picture of that so you know what I'm talking about)  My companion gave me a good lookin t-shirt  but it's too small so I'll wear it as my workout shirt so that it makes me look more buff!

I got mostly food from my family- which I'm so glad they did! I didn't realize how much I miss simple american food like granola!

Practicing for the Christmas party
We had tried to go out Christmas eve to do some American style Christmas caroling. We rode out with 4 other Elders to an area & knocked on some gates, but not one person came out! They all looked out their windows (probably got sacred with 6 americans outside) & then went away! We tried for 2 hours & finally gave up but with smiles on our faces! It is amazing to see how different things are here!

Last night we had an activity to watch a Church movie with some members. We watched Ephraims Rescue, which I hadn't seen yet. It has a lot of power in it & I really felt the spirit- I loved it! Great movie!

I love knowing Chinese! We had a young woman who was telling the Elders how cute they were but none of the Elders could understand her, but I could! I guess with the Chinese girls in the area, I am ranked #2 as the most handsome Elder! hahah ! Sweet!

Love you all, Hope you all had a great Christmas!
Playing cups! So Fun!

Everyone takes their shoes off at the church - for everything!
I love having church in my socks! 

Service project for a sister, cleaning her windows, which as you can see, was very difficult!
(Thanks to  Sis. Beus for taking all these pictures of  Elder Hanks!) 


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

PBS TV segment showed this weekend

Ammon's segment for the PBS Religion & Ethics showed this weekend. His 'interview' didn't make the cut but you do see him & some of his MTC district on film a couple of times during the first half of the story!

Mormon Missionary Expansion is the title of the segment shown Dec 18, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tri-language Christmas party & I think we had spies!

Even though Christmas is just around the corner & a lot of you are probably enjoying the "winter wonderland" - I'm am enjoying my  "wet & wetter wonderland"!
This past week we had a branch Christmas party with all 3 of the Sibu branches! It was crazy chaos having Chinese, Malay & Iban people all trying to enjoy a Christmas spirit!  It was great - next time try that at your ward party having it in 3 different languages! A lot of people came though, including a lot of potential investigators & we hope to be able to follow up & start adding more investigators to our teaching pool!
One of our current investigators is on date to be baptized on January 4th but she has hurt her back pretty bad. She has continued to progress & has come to church so we really didn't have any concern until we didn't see her at church this week. We hope her back isn't a bigger problem & we are praying for her daily & I feel confident that she will be ready by January!
Guess which Christmas tree was decorated by the Iban branch ?!

a branch member made the ornaments for their tree

We have been working considerably hard to increase the activity of he less active. We have been constantly visiting this older couple with several daughters & they are all members but aren't very active. So when they come to church the increase our branch attendance to 45 people! Which has been the highest number since my companion came to Sibu, which when he started the branch was like at 15! So that was awesome!
We hope this family will stay open hearted & if they come, they will be a great addition to our branch!

So this past week 3 people that no one has ever seen before came to our family home evening! We were excited & gave them a tour of our church. We all felt the spirit strong & we were excited to follow up with them. Later in the week though, we found out that the Methodist church is sending spies to church to see what we are doing & what our beliefs are! Haha, I guess we need to be more aware of who comes into the church asking weird questions like how many people are coming to our church....!

Well, I can't wait for Christmas. We are doing Secret Santa gifts for the other Elders in our apartment. I'm really excited to give gifts but also excited to receive some too! I think it will help me feel not so far away from home. Most Chinese people really don't love Christmas like we do, so not a lot of them have an actual Christmas tree in their home.
I have lots of Asians staring at me & its hilarious, but it makes it easier for me to approach them because they will actually keep their attention on me. The kids over here are hilarious too & make everything even better!
Wish you all a Merry Christmas & enjoy a  white one too for me!
Elder Hanks

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

homesick & monsoon season

This is what monsoon weather looks like !
(I don't think his shoes are going to last very long BUT glad he has a helmet! - & wears it! ) 
First of all, my 2nd Christmas package made it though customs so I will have 2 presents to open, one from you and one from Amanda! Thanks! I'm excited to see what you sent!

2nd- Malaysia is wet! It rains here so often! Pretty much every day. Last week we went to a burger place for some food, which is run right outside the owner's house. So as we pulled up, we saw that their whole front yard was flooded. This is how it goes in monsoon season!

Ok, so I have been feeling pretty homesick this last week.
Our investigator that we were so excited about, who seemed so promising, informed us after our first lesson with him, that he was going out of town until April!!! Who does that..... besides missionaries! So we were pretty disappointed we won't be seeing him for a long time. But we are hopping that we gave him a great experience with the church so when he comes back he will still have some interest.

I have been in SMS-ing (mission version of messaging someone)  the Chinese guy we handed a Book of Mormon to on our flight to Singapore.  I asked him if I could send the missionaries over to his house in Hong Kong. We'll see what he says! All I know is his first name so hopefully he will respond back!

We had some time on our hands this week so we began calling people from the "potential" list. We called several people- either getting no response or they say they wouldn't come to church because of work & stuff. So on Sunday we went to our normal meetings & had just arrived home when the other elders in our apartment got a phone call that an extremely less active member decided to go to church. For them, this was a miracle! So they were so excited, the left for their Sacrament meeting.
I was so discouraged and was homesick, tired & bummed out, it was hard to want to do anything. A minute later we got a phone call from a sister, who we had apparently called earlier in the week, inviting her to come to church (she said she was busy-  when Chinese people say they are busy, I think they really aren't)
anyway - she was AT our church!  We were "WHAT?!" She said she was there right now, so we told her to wait & we ran right over to the church.  We found her waiting for the other branches meeting to start.
As we talked to her, she said she wasn't planning on coming to Church but her friend invited her at the last minute.  We look over &  the friend of hers was the  "miracle" & "extremely inactive" member that the other Elders had  ran to go meet!  She had noticed the address of the church was the same address we had given her earlier in the week- so she called us! We were able to talk to her for a while & gave her a Book of Mormon. We had been short of our goal of how many copies of the Book of Mormon we wanted to pass out by 1 - so now we had meet our goal! We were able to set an appointment to see her next Sunday, so we are excited to see where this goes!

I miss you all & hope you have a fun Christmas Season!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Weird, interesting week with a dead next door neighbor

Hey everyone! Happy late Thanksgiving!

So this week has been very interesting & different! 

I never told you about my companion - it's Elder Earl! The cool thing is that I met his parents when I was at the Hill Cumorah Pageant this summer! 
I got my first package from you & loved the Chopsticks! and the kids will love the Pez dispensers!  (this was his christmas package! not a Welcome to Sibu package!- good thing a 2nd package was sent  later or the kid would have nothing to open on Christmas!) 

So first, the random guy who came to church last week has become an investigator & looks pretty promising right now. We are hoping to teach him & prepare him for a "white" christmas baptism! Our Zone has 21 people on track to be baptized by the 21 of December so we are hoping we can do something with our investigator this month too!

Thanksgiving was great! We biked to a senior couples apartment for turkey & such! It was so good & reminded me of home. On the way there it was POURING rain & the side walks are made with tile! (not a great idea in the first place) On on the way there, 2 elders that we were riding with slid & burned! They were ok but it was crazy funny to watch it happen, like in slow motion funny! This is the kind of mission experience I thought I would have! Biking in monsoon season! 

Since being here, I have tried a bunch of food & am getting used to talking to a bunch of random people and I am loving things here in Sibu! We are starting to have more & more people become more interested in the church. A lot of people here actually know who we are. We often ask people, "Have you ever seen people like us before?" & they go "Yeah, riding the bikes around!" Yep! that's who we are - the guys that just constantly ride our bikes around!  

A cool thing about Sibu, is the night market downtown! There is this parking lot that they use during the day for businesses & stuff and then every night, all these Chinese & Malay people come out of nowhere & set up these shops and sell anything! T-shirts, food - pig snout!,  purses, souvenirs, .. We had a member with us & bought some kind of gummy food thing. It looked pretty good so I tried it. I don't know what it was or what it was filled with but this weird bitter-sour soy sauce stuff goes all over my hand & it was terrible!  

We have been serving a member of our branch by pulling the weeds in her yard. During our weed pulling, her brother, who isn't a member pulls up & starts talking to us. We were really excited to talk to him ! After a while he looked  at me & said" You know, you look like Eminem." I was like "What?!" He said,  "Yeah, yo do, just more clean cut & good looking." Haha! I have never been called that - but ok!  Then later, when I turned to look at him again, he said, "whoa, from the side you look like that American Pie Guy." ( I don't even know who that is, so if you do, let me know !)  We were able to talk to him later about the church & we got him to let us call him & set up a time to come & teach him! Except, I'm not quite sure if he was drunk or not! haha! oh well! 

So the weird & sad thing about this week! We come home from church Sunday & find this guy outside our house & another guy with him.  (So our house is like one house split into 2 different living spaces)  So one of the guys starts to ask us about our building neighbor & when was the last time we saw him. We have never met him or even seen him, so we don't know who or what they are talking about. One of the guys is his friend & our building neighbors wife had called him to go check on his friend, our neighbor. So the friend eventually goes into the house & finds that the guy had taken his own life by breathing the fumes from some coals he had lit. So we are there & the friends call the police & for 2 hours we watched the police do their thing, they asked us a few questions, cleared out the "apartment" & it was just so weird. Here we are missionaries with a message of joy & we lived right next door to someone who probably needed it! Crazy. So later we took a picture of Christ over to his family, who were all gathering at his apartment. Crazy. 

So we are trying to get the members wanting to come to FHE more. So since it's Christmas time we think we are going to teach about service & the value it has. So we are thinking of making a small christmas tree & over the next few weeks, for every act of service the members do for someone else, they get to add a decoration to it. Then we will present our service tree at the Christmas party we are having in a few weeks to show how much service they have done. What do you think? We were trying to make FHE fun so if you have any ideas for a powerful, spiritual lesson, let me know! 

Anyway, hoping & praying for my first baptism! 
It's still hot over here & I hope you guys are enjoying the snow if you have it yet- because I won't for 2 years!
Love you all & miss you too! 
Elder Hanks