Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Week 18

This week was the best week of the week! (What?!) We have no new investigators, but we did bring an awesome referral with us to church. He's a very busy businessman, so he won't be back in Kuala Lumpur for a while, but when he returns, we're excited to see how he accepts the gospel. We were able to meet many interesting people this week. One of them knew a lot about our church already, but wouldn't accept a Book of Mormon. Another, the lady who randomly asked Elder Chong if he was Japanese a while back, we ran into again and she mostly just told me why I shouldn't read the Book of Mormon. Interestingly enough though, she did say something about how I should ask God for myself if it is true, and then act on my answer. I told her that there was a scripture in the Book of Mormon about that, and the reason I was serving a mission is because I had that answer. She still didn't accept. One thing I neglected to mention in my last letter was a highlight of my mission thus far. Two weeks ago, we got to get our feet eaten by fish! It was a great experience, but it's difficult to keep your feet in the water because when like 30 fish are all biting your feet, it is incredibly ticklish. Though I haven't really noticed while it has been happening, I think my Chinese has improved quite a bit over the last several weeks. Having a native companion is great! I hope I'm helping his English, too, but he already speaks many languages pretty well. It's cool how so many Chinese people here speak Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Malay, and Hakkan, sometimes even Fujianhua(?). I never really knew until I got here how different Mandarin and Cantonese sound. I drank soy milk this week, which was not the best beverage in the world. Soy pudding, though, isn't bad. Well, have a good week everybody. Study the Book of Mormon carefully, and it will bless every aspect of your lives! Love, Elder Earl

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Week 17

It was a good one. One major theme of the week has been the rain. Last week was my first chance of being outside in the rain (it's rained before, but in Singapore, you can be inside all the time, and usually I haven't had to go out), but this week I got that opportunity several times. The best one happened yesterday. After church, we decided to walk around and see the nearby area. Once we were a few minutes away, it suddenly started pouring, and though I had a waterproof rain-fly-ish thing on my backpack, everything in there was soaked. We decided to get on a bus going the opposite direction of where we wanted to go just to get out of the rain. When we finally got on a bus going the right direction, our plans had changed drastically, but a cool lady got on the bus with us and approached us to talk for quite a while. Just one of many, many evidences that happen every day that the Lord knows what he's doing. Another interesting part of the week is one that just barely happened. Transfers! We knew we'd be safe, since we're on a different schedule from the English and Malay missionaries, but our zone is expanding a lot and changed a bunch too. Many of the Malays I knew in the MTC will be training here. Also, one of the sisters in our branch was transferred. Our investigators are great, but they can't be baptized until they can come to church consistently. So hopefully miracles can happen soon! And we hope we can find lots of new investigators, too. We made cool business cards with our church address on them this week. So we feel pretty official, but because of the obscure location of the church, the map we have on it may not be super useful. Oh, well. :) Also we had a few more meal appointments this week. Our favorite was our double dinner appointment night. We taught an investigator with some members who fed us, and after we went to another family's home and were fed there. It was quite a bit of food, but it was all amazing. Both of those families are super cool! One night this week, we had 8 people stay in our place because the Assistants came to do exchanges with the zone leaders, and then the Sitiawan elders came through on their way to their area. It was pretty great. Every day is great here, and I hope it is for all of you back home, as well! Love, Elder Earl

Week 16

Ni hao, everybody! This week has been a good one. It was exciting hearing about transfers last week. Both my MTC buddies are now in East Malaysia. I talked to Elder Frey on the phone, and he is now companions with the one of the Elders I knew at the MTC. Small world. They are staying a bit longer in Singapore for the Piano Guys concert. Lucky them! Piano Guys are randomly very popular here. I heard their CD was the #1 selling CD in Singapore last year, and they have posters in the main bookstore of Malaysia called Popular. Anyway, we had some good experiences teaching this week. Our first lesson was us going up to the cool Tamils we met who speak Chinese and we just started teaching. One of them prayed for her first time, and it was awesome. During the lesson, a random guy came up to us and asked if we were the Joseph Smith church, so that was kind of weird. A few days before that, a random lady out of the blue asked Elder Chong "You're from Japan, right?" He said no, and then she said "okay, missionaries". Elder Chong asked excitedly, "You know missionaries?" and she, looking at him like that was the dumbest question ever, said "Of course I do!" and then she just walked away. It was really strange. We also made progress with our two investigators who are super prepared. They both have work issues, but one of them texted us to tell us that we were right, she shouldn't work on Sunday. Hopefully she comes next week! The other one has asked his boss and been denied, but in the middle of the lesson he said "I believe in Joseph Smith, I believe in the Book of Mormon, I believe in all of it!". It was really good. We also had a super cool person in the branch decide he would serve, just as one finally left this week to serve in our mission as he waits for his visa. There is yet another soon-to-leave missionary who is going to Taiwan. Our branch is super cool. We also got to go twice to the home for disabled people to unload 300 wheelchairs the church donated, which was really great. Saturday was a very interesting day for me. It was Malaysia's national day, it was Elder Chong's 1 year mark, and it was the biggest rainstorm I've seen so far. We ate a slightly nicer meal for his year mark, and we braved the rain which, unfortunately, soaked many copies of the Book of Mormon. :( Overall, it was a good week, and I'm excited for another. Next week is transfers for all the non-Chinese missionaries, and lots of new people are coming, so there will be changes for sure all around. Have an amazing week! Love, Elder Earl

Week 15 -- A very, very sad time in the Singapore Mission.

I assumed you'd hear from other sources, so I'll tell you that there was an elder this week who died due to injuries he received when hit by a car. We had a Malaysia/Singapore wide fast yesterday for him, but he passed on last night to serve as a missionary on the other side. It's been very sad for our whole mission, and I'm sure much worse for his family. Luckily, the mission president was in East Malaysia at the time. He is a truly great man. He has so many responsibilities, and he handles them all spectacularly. We have been praying constantly for his family, for his companion and for everyone involved in this sad situation. Anyway, although other things, right now, seem so trivial. I guess I can talk about the rest of the week. We taught some new people, put another guy on date, and even taught an English lesson this week. It was great, but very hard (he's been dropped before), and I did almost all the teaching. We also got a chance to do a service project at a home for disabled people, which was super great. I'm glad we had that opportunity. We painted. One funny thing that happened was I started talking to a Pakistani, and said in Urdu "I know a little Urdu" mostly to make him laugh, so we could talk more, but he just talked to me in Urdu a ton, and I was really confused. There is a cool guy in our branch who has been waiting on a visa to go to his assigned mission in Australia, but it has taken so long, that he'll be starting his mission here this week, along with two Chinese Elders we knew in the MTC and one from Mainland China, I believe. We just got word about transfers, and my friend Elder Mitchell is going to Miri. Elder Frey is opening up Sitiawan with a trainee. Super exciting! Well, I'm looking forward to another week here, and hopefully it'll be great again! Thanks for being such a great family and support to me. Pray for the family of the elder who passed on. -Elder Earl

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Week 14

Sorry I'm sending this later than usual, but we just got back from Singapore today, so this is the first time I've really had time. We were going to do it in Singapore, but the internet places there rarely have Chinese character capabilities, which my companion needs.

Anyway, last week, we got appointments set up with some people from Myanmar who had been dropped before on the phone, so that was nice. Unfortunately we were unable to teach them this week.

The next day, we went to district meeting which was far away, but it was great, especially since the Howells, the couple who's place we did it at, are super cool. And they made us food!

One interesting thing is that some buildings here have floors 3A and 13A, etc. to replace 4 and 14 since 4 sounds like death in Chinese.

There are a bunch of missionaries here who have been out even less than I have already. They are from the English speaking generation.

I got my first taste of door knocking, which is a bit scary and unproductive, but it was fun. We called a bunch of people from potential investigator sheets that go back way long ago, and some of them even said they'd come to church! One interesting thing was that my companion and I both read the same passage of scriptures, studying different things. I guess it was important for our companionship!

I think I should tell you a bit more about Elder Chong, because he's great. He's from Sitiawan (or however you spell it), and he's been out nearly a year. Before his mission, he was a baker, so he's the go-to guy for great meals. I'm a lucky elder. He's very humble and hardworking, and I love being his companion!

On Wednesday, we read the analogy about fishermen in Preach my Gospel, where you can go out fishing but really only have your net out a couple hours, or you can go out and have it out the whole time. I really liked that one. We went across town to get Chinese Book of Mormons, but unfortunately there were only two, so hopefully we can find more soon. We taught a cool member, who's just amazing. That night, we ran into someone interested that we couldn't teach, but he was a really cool guy and it was fun to talk to him.

Thursday, we did some weekly planning, but then had to leave to teach a couple lessons deep into our area with the sisters. The first one didn't happen, but the second one was at a member's house, and it went great. Elder Chong gave her a baptismal date and she's ready to be baptized. Afterwards, they fed us pizza. One had hot sauce instead of tomato sauce and little anchovie things on it. It was pretty good. We agreed to fast together, too. We also visited an investigator of the sisters who is super cool from India, and we got a bit of food there. There's also ice cream flavored soda here which is really interesting.

Friday, we mostly just passed out Book of Mormons, since our one appointment fell through. We passed them to some really cool Nigerians. Later that night, we had some great steamed buns from a street vendor, and he says he'll come to church sometime.

Saturday was also good. In training, we watch the District a lot, so we watched a ton. And then we got naan for cheap for lunch, which was delicious. We knocked doors again, which just hasn't worked out for us yet. We then had two lessons planned, but weird things happened and we only taught one, but we met the other investigator who seems super cool. Ice Milo is also a really good drink, by the way.

On Sunday, we had combined church with the KL branch because of electricity problems at our building, and I met lots of cool people. It was really fun, and they had food after, but we were fasting with our investigator. We were led by that super awesome member from above to places with lots of Chinese people, and I got a few Book of Mormons out, but the areas weren't really in our area. We stopped at a touristy place and it started raining really hard. IT was cool. We unfortunately waited somewhere for an investigator for a long time, and he was also waiting there, but we didn't know each other, so that didn't happen. We got home and had delicious chicken nuggets and a sweet corn twinkie like thing.

Zone conference was all super fun! Our taxi driver filled up gas while the car was running and the car stalled on the highway, but we made it to the airport and then to Singapore no problem. The Chinese Elders are in the process of moving, and some transfers have happened there, but it was good to see my former companions, as well as Elder Sheranian. We watched the Work of Salvation broadcast, and I am in it a tiny bit. On the real day of Zone conference, Tuesday, we learned from the Assistants, the mission president, and his wife, and it was all great. Our mission is getting many new people in the next few months. Also, the Malay Book of Mormon recently came out, so we got pictures with that. Everyone is super excited about it. We had good pizza and then ice cream for dinner. The ice cream place has a challenge that one day I want to attempt. We had a good zone meeting, I ate some weird octopus and prawn ball things, and then we went home. This morning, we got up and came back to KL! So that's the last week plus.

Love, GE ZL

Monday, August 12, 2013

Week 13

This week was another good one. On Tuesday, we had a great lesson with an investigator that we had challenged to fast with us, where in the end, he agreed to move his baptismal date up a few weeks. He is super great.

I talked with the assistants about my travel to KL, and they instructed me to find a bus and take it to KL on Thursday. I was kind of scared, since those descriptions weren't too descriptive.

One funny thing that happened was my companion asked me to draft a text to remind everyone to come to a baptismal service on Wednesday, and I accidentally used the wrong characters, so instead of writing "Hello, everybody" I wrote "Hit with a fist". The next day, we taught two lessons on the Word of Wisdom, and then we filled the font, etc, for the baptismal service. It was the other companionship's baptism, but my companion, Elder Frey, baptized. Kind of weird, but before we got here he was in their companionship, so it makes sense. Anyway, that was a good one. Her parents flew in from China to come, which was extra cool. And luckily, after the baptism I ran into the KL Zone leaders who were in for a meeting, and they were also travelling to KL the next day. We agreed to meet the next morning, so I was very relieved.

The next day, I left and met them a few stations away, and we walked and took taxis all over Singapore looking for a bus, but it turns out we were leaving during Hari Raya, the end of Ramadan, so lots of people were travelling, and there were no tickets anywhere. Instead, we decided to take a taxi to the border. Once across (many hours later), we had a really good lunch, met up with a Chinese man from Singapore who wanted people to travel with, and took a bus to KL.

There was a Beyond 5 (pretty much a Utahn boy band) concert that we were going to go to, but we missed it by a while. We got to the house about 9:30, but I met up with companion before that and we even ran into an investigator. The Assistants also slept at our place that night, as well as another elder. Our new place is pretty nice, and has tons of locks (the Zone leaders describe it as a fortress). It's not too big, but it has a gym, and we have a great view of the Petronas towers.

Anyway, for the past few days, we've mostly just followed the sisters who are assigned to the same branch as us (apparently there haven't been elders here for years). Transportation has been expensive, because the place was closed where the other missionaries buy a pass for the holiday, and we've had to buy tokens every time. But we got the passes this morning, so everything is good.

The first day, we went with them to an appointment and then got the area book and discussed the people they are handing off to us. The next day, we went to two appointments. The first was with a young Chinese man, and he is very prepared. They had taught him some of the Plan of Salvation the time before, but we cleared that up in Chinese with him and Elder Chong told a story of how he had to tell his boss that he wouldn't work on Sundays, even if he had to quit. He quit, and got an even better job. Then, Elder Chong got him a baptismal date by simply asking "So when do you want to have your baptism?". He's really a great guy and I'm excited for him. Next we went to visit two people that aren't our investigators, but they are super great, and they fed us, which I feel bad about, since they weren't expecting four missionaries.

Sunday was also a good one. We followed the sisters to church. I love our branch. Our branch president is very willing to help. There are many Indians, many Malaysians, a few Americans, and a bunch of Chinese people. We have a senior couple in our branch, that is also really nice. There are several soon-to-leave missionaries here. I went to Sunday School in Malay, but my companion translated a lot of it. After, we went to a baptism of an 8 year old in our branch, but at the other chapel (near our place, actually. We live far from our area). There are so many cool people here.

Other things we've done this week has been: call a bunch of people, we have a few appointments set up for this week, grocery shopping, and weekly planning. Overall, I really love KL, but transportation is a bit slower, so sometimes I don't feel as productive. I'm so blessed to be companions with Elder Chong, so my Chinese can progress. Things have been crazy with studies, but I think my Chinese is definitely improving. KL food is all really good, and there are many cool buildings here, like the beautiful mosques, and of course, the Petronas towers. I also got to call in our weekly report to the district leader yesterday for the first time. Overall, I'm excited to be here, I could potentially be here a long time. Hopefully this week we can really start to get the work moving.

Anyway, have a great week!

Love, Ge Zhanglao

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Week 12

This week has been another amazing one, and I don't know if KL can possibly be as cool as Singapore! First, we went to Marina Bay after email last week. It's the iconic place in Singapore, and we got some good pictures and got to spend time with a really cool recent convert before he left back to China. The Merlion was my favorite part of that. 

We went to FHE after with the YSA, which was fun as usual. They are all super cool. The next day we did things for our work permits, that went by smoothly, and we even made it back for district meeting, where departing missionaries shared the advice that they wish they had known earlier, including one of the APs. A bunch of them left this week, but something like 8 English speakers came this week, as well. I am no longer the least experienced missionary here! :)

We taught three investigators, none of which I've met before, and that was fun. One of them said I need to call him and he will cook for me.

The next day was also great. I went to Little India for the first time and got to eat a bunch of Indian food. A lot of the Chinese people aren't fans of Indian cuisine, so I got to eat nearly two meals, since one of the members who went with us didn't like hers.

We got another elder who was in Singapore for a couple days, and he was super cool. He stayed with us that night, so there were 7 mattresses in our one room, which is kind of odd since in our same building there is another English companionship of elders by themselves in an apartment.

Anyway, Elder Mitchell and I went out contacting for a bit by ourselves, which was fun. One very cool thing that happened is as we left the building, we saw two people coming in, which we didn't think much of. We said a prayer, and as soon as we opened our eyes, they were walking out of it past us, and we talked to them. It turns out they weren't members and were just seeing what our church was about, so that was good.

We got back and did a basketball activity with YSA and people they invited, which was actually very effective. A bunch of nonmembers came and we talked to them. And then I saw someone I knew from BYU, Damon Petersen (hopefully that's the right spelling).

Someone brought durian that night, and I finally had my first taste. I had tried many times to get things like durian juice or Durian McFlurries, but I was told my first try had to be fresh. It definitely smells not so great, I smell it all over the place. It tasted and had the texture of an enchilada, I think. I wasn't a fan.

Anyway, the next day was also a good one. We did weekly planning, which takes a very long time. I thought we accomplished a lot, though. One tradition before weekly planning is to go to a nearby pizza place first, and we ran into our Stake President there. As he left, he said "Enjoy your free meal!". It turns out he payed for all of us! What a kind man! He's super great. There were 8 missionaries, and this place isn't that cheap.

Our next day was probably the best of the week because we taught 4 lessons, which all went well. The first investigator seemed a bit uninterested when he was first met with, but in this lesson he was very interested in family history work, and then accepted things that are a bit weird for some people like the Word of Wisdom and Baptisms for the Dead immediately, no question. He also firmly believes he will get an answer to his prayers soon. The next one we watched the Joseph Smith video with, and by the end, she was practically bearing testimony to us about it. Our third lesson helped a recent convert be willing to start attending church again. Our last one was with a guy that apparently has made tons of progress, and I really like him. He agreed to start fasting.

The next day we had some very interesting lessons, but the most memorable part of the day was in between lessons. I went back down the hallway to adjust the AC when suddenly I heard a "crack" below my feet. The hallway was dark, and I couldn't really see what it was, but it looked like a toy lizard. As I was coming back, I looked more closely at it. And my worst fears were confirmed. It wasn't a toy. But it was a lizard. And it was dead. In the end, it turns out I may not have killed it, but I still feel really bad about killing a lizard. When we left the building, the Filipinos came to play there weekly game of full court basketball outside, but after seeing what Elder Frey had done to the basketball hoop, they all left, so then both of us felt badly, and it was all okay.

That night we went to a dinner appointment with some super cool people in the ward. We ate wonderful dumplings and macaroons, and I learned how to play real Mah Jong (or however you spell it).

Yesterday was also pretty dang good, though we did forget to tell two referrals who were willing to come to church what time it was at. They came to break the fast with us, though, which had some pretty dang good food.

Today was the best P-day so far, we went to Pulau Ubin, an island just off the main one, and there we mountain biked. There were four of us there, since the other two decided since it was pouring rain they didn't want to, but though we were soaked before we even got there, it wasn't crowded at all, and it was super, super fun. We walked through Mangrove Forests and saw plenty of wild boars, and had lots of good biking. And I ate another durian, which I am now a part-fan of.

I will also be leaving to KL this week!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Week 11

Here are some pictures, first of all. I took them all today. One is all the languages of Book of Mormons I have in my backpack right now. One is the other 5 people in our house walking forward. One is a cool pillow I got for free at the grocery store (Sour Cream and Onion), and one is my desk. Oh, and then our sleeping arrangements. Anyway, this week has been a good one.

First of all, we played Steal the Flag at the Botanic Gardens, which was pretty fun. Then we had our first FHE with the YSA and a bunch of investigators, and it was also fun. I don't really remember the order things happened this week, so actually I'll just say things as I remember them.

One cool experience we had was we decided to take the bus somewhere instead of the MRT and when we got to the bus stop, there was a very drunk man there who recognized us. He was baptized a while ago, but fell away shortly thereafter, and he said he had recently prayed for God to show that he was there, and as he said it he "got six answers" (there were six of us elders). He went to the trash and threw away a bottle of liquor right there. The other companionship met with him, and hopefully he can make some changes in his life. He was a very interesting guy.

Another thing we've done a lot of this week (and every week from now on) is contacting. It's fun, but I'm bad at it. The mission has a goal of one BoM a day per companionship, and we definitely achieved that and more this week. I like to carry BoMs in a bunch of languages with me, so we've passed out English, Chinese, Bengali, and Tamil this week. Bengalis and Tamils are super nice, so if I'd carried more of those, we'd be passing out even more. We've also had our fair share of rejection, though (like people getting up and walking away when we sit by them, people shooing us away, etc.), but I read a scripture in the Sermon on the Mount, that pretty much said we should rejoice when people "revile" us. One of my favorite ways is bus stop contacting, where we pretend to be waitng for a bus, and between the three of us, ensure anyone who sits down is near one of us.

The food is also something that requires serious description, because I love to eat. For breakfast, usually I drink some chocolate milk and sometimes eat some Great Grains cereal. But the other meals, we usually eat out. One restaurant that was especially good was a Korean barbeque place, which was very expensive, but pretty dang good. Unfortunately, one companion of mine did not realize that the buffet meat was uncooked (we cooked it on this little thing on each table), and had a bunch of raw chicken. Yum. We also ate a bunch of prawns, squid, and clams there. And ice cream. Singapore ice cream toppings are not the best. Another thing I ate this week was sweet corn and yam flavored ice creams. For some reason, they seem to think corns and beans are desserts here. So I've eaten some good bean and corn desserts! I have yet to try durian, though.

We also got two investigators on baptismal date this week. We taught a bunch of lessons, and slowly I'm starting to understand more of what's going on. It's amazing to see how prepared some people really are. One investigator is very interested in prayer, and we watched the Joseph Smith video together, and he paid very close attention the whole time. It was really good. Another one wants to be baptized on her birthday. Another one came to church with us before we even ever met her. We also spaced on an appointment this week. In Chinese, you'd say "women fang le ta de gizi" meaning we unleashed her pigeons. :)

Transfer news happened and we are getting a bunch of English speaking missionaries soon. We won't be the youngest anymore! Nothing affecting any of us, of course, though. This Tuesday, we have another appointment to get the work permit, and we'll probably fly out a week after that. But we don't know. Our mission president said this is the most flexible mission in the world, and it really probably is. We often get our flights the day we leave to places. I hear my trainer is someone that's has success in even the areas other consider to be difficult, so I'm excited. Everyone says "he's the man". It'll be cool speaking Chinese all the time. His English is probably about where my Chinese is, I don't know.

One fun thing that happened today was that during a game of basketball, my companion, Elder Frey (who plays college basketball), went in for a dunk and came down with a large portion of the backboard. Oops. It was very funny, though.

On a more serious note, I did a split with a Malay elder to visit a less active member's house. He was Chinese, but didn't speak Chinese, only English. We ended up teaching him how to do stretches for his leg, which keeps him from Church. And then I unexpectedly got to give him a blessing. And he agreed to come to church next week with those elders. It was fun.

Well, that's all I can remember from now. Every day is super fun and lots of funny things happen and miracles happen all the time! Have a great week!

-Ge Zhanglao

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Week 10

I'm trying to remember my last day at the MTC, it seems so long ago, but we got up and packed, and both the other two going to Singapore were feeling pretty sick, then we went to class, which was really weird since most everybody was gone. Elder Fletcher first left to his reassignment. Next, we were up, and we hurried around to get last-minute things done, and we went to the travel office. They gave us a bunch of forms. One of them was a work permit application, one was something telling us how to answer questions to get into Singapore. We rode up and met some really cool guys from Saudi Arabia. They were 18 years old, brothers from different wives of their father, studying abroad in Salt Lake and going home for the first time in a few months. One lady we talked to said she had a niece in our mission. Then we flew to LA and checked in and stuff. It was kind of scary because I just read on a paper we had that the airline we were transferring to had a carryon limit of 15 pounds, but they let us check in our carryons for free and she said though our backpacks were too heavy, it was okay.

Well, after I called you guys, we went to our flight to Hong Kong. It was definitely super long. And it was funny because when I told my companion that I didn't stand up once on the flight to Mumbai, he laughed and thought that was really dumb, but none of us stood up at all on the whole flight. We flew over Taiwan and Japan (and China, obviously). I also met a cool guy who was flying over to Asia to write a book about health care systems. We got to Hong Kong, and thought we'd have to hurry super fast, but we made our next flight in plenty of time.

One guy we talked to waiting for the flight was really nice, but then suddenly said he had to leave and just walked to the other side of the seating area. We then flew to Singapore over Vietnam. We didn't see pretty much of anything until we landed because it was super cloudy, though. We got in with our work permit applications without any problem, then got our luggage and our Mission President, his wife, the two assistants, and one Chinese Elder were all there. We took those pictures I sent you and ate at Burger King. Then we went with Elder Frey (the Chinese elder) to the church using the MRT and contacted a few people on the way. He's been out since November, and his Chinese is super good.

We heard the three areas we would be serving in and who the trainer is for each (but not which one we were assigned to yet). One is staying here in Singapore with Elder Frey, another was going to East Malaysia in Sibu, and one to open up Kuala Lumpur with a native Malaysian Chinese. There haven't been Mandarin missionaries there that anybody knows of.

At the Church, we had a little welcome orientation, where we met with President Mains and his wife and the financial elder. Apparently our mission has more senior couples than any other mission. And it's one of the most expensive missions for sure. Oh, and none of the areas we'll ever serve in has malaria, so that won't be a problem. And we're the first missionaries to do this work permit thing right when we get in, so we won't do via runs to Indonesia like most missionaries, which is apparently pretty lucky because many missionaries have been nearly arrested.

We also wrote talks for the next day that we all gave and then we went to the other church which is attached to a house we stayed at the next night. We ate at a good Chinese place, then we went back and slept.

I don't know why I'm going into such great detail. Anyway, the next day we had the program, we gave talks, we found out our assignments, but because work permits take 14 days to process, we will all be here at least a couple more weeks. Then the trainers flew back out to Sibu, where they've been. The work permit stuff was unexpected, I think. Flights are very easy to find, I think.

Then we hauled luggage across town on foot, on MRT, and on bus, and we sweated a TON. Our place is by the first church-ish, and it's pretty big (3 bathrooms, 2 large study rooms, we all sleep in the same room, a kitchen, big open area), so it can fit 6. There was Elder Frey and another companionship there before.

We ate some really good Chicken rice, which is something they said we'll eat more than anything here. We taught three lessons that night (well, I mostly observed). The first was a new investigator, but I don't think he's super interested. We taught about prayer. Next was a recent convert who needs to understand why we need the BoM and the restoration better. And last was a pretty great new investigator who agreed to pray daily, read the BoM, and go to church (she already took off work for next week!). I was very jet lagged though and nearly fell asleep. There were members at all those lessons, and they were nice.

We ate Subway after. Oh, and by the way, this was Elder Mitchell, Elder Frey, and me. Elder Sutherland has been tagging along with the other companionship. The next day we mostly just did doctor stuff (blood test, chest x-rays, etc) and study. Then we had a baptism that Elder Frey did, which the new investigator came to. On Sunday, we went to church, where the members are super nice, but I didn't understand some of the people. Others I can, though. There were a bunch of investigators they had met last Sunday at a place, so we went there contacting later in the evening. I definitely didn't say much contacting, but it was fun and we passed out a bunch of BoMs.

 Today is p-day and we're going to do capture the flag as a zone, I guess. Super exciting. Our Zone is all of Singapore, which right now includes the 6 of us and about 20 Malay elders and sisters, which are actually English speaking when they are in Singapore. I don't know what exactly's happening in the next few weeks, but as soon as our work permits are processed, I guess I'll be flying out to Kuala Lumpur to meet my trainer Elder Chong and start the work up there. I hear it's a really cool city, but nothing like Singapore, since even in KL, you can only drink bottled water. That's one nice thing about Singapore. Well, I probably included tons of unimportant details and forgot some of the cool things. Oh, well. Have a great week! -Ge Zhanglao

p.s. Oh, and the reason I talked about that random airport lady is because the very first sister we met at the baptism happened to be her niece.

I'm Here!

MTC Pictures

Week 9

This week has been a good one, but pretty crazy. We started off with our best Monday TRC lesson, I think, but it was a little embarassing because the video and audio quality weren't great, and we accidentally thought she said her name was "Fat" in Chinese, and I asked her how old she was because she sounded like 20, but after our 45 minute lesson, I'm pretty sure she was 60ish. And she laughed a lot at me. Oh, well.

We did hosting again, but I didn't host, since there were plenty of people and I already had that opportunity. But I did meet someone who has spent time in India and we reminisced a bit. We got another generation of Chinese people this week, and we are over 150 now, which is the most the MTC has ever had.

On Thursday we had in-field orientation all day, which was pretty dang long, but a good experience. I got to meet Elder Christensen from The District, and he seems like a pretty cool guy. We taught our last lessons to our investigators, and I think we covered the Law of Chastity pretty thoroughly to one (though not super well, probably), and the Atonement pretty well to another. And then we said goodbye to them the next day.

Yesterday, we had our departure devotional, and we are the biggest group to ever leave the MTC (974 this week), though I'm sure that will be broken in the next few weeks. The MTC is pretty crowded.

On our way to our temple walk, we were greeted by two protesters holding crosses and rambling on about how our church is evil, or whatever. We were nice to them, and as we left, we said "Have a great day!" and one said back to us "I'm having the best day of my life, because *I* have eternal life."

Also, we discovered this week that there are missionaries who stay 12 weeks here, they are learning French and Tahitian, in part to preserve the language, I guess. So we aren't the oldest people here!

The elder in our district who was going to stay extra time at the MTC is actually going to be able to go to a 6 week temporary reassignment in Salt Lake South after travelling to San Francisco to apply for his French passport, or something. Another elder will have to wait an extra week before getting a reassignment since his Australian visa still hasn't arrived. We had three missionaries leave last night in the middle of the night, and two will leave this night, then we leave, then one on the 18th. We have to do some strange splits to make it work, but I really think our district is one of the coolest ever since we're Chinese and going all over the world.

I'm super excited to go to Singapore, but hopefully we make all the flights. It's funny, but I'm the most experienced traveler of the three of us, so I have to be the expert.

We got some good pictures this week, but I'll just get them from other people and forward them eventually. We also taught our teacher as herself as a district, and though our lesson wasn't probably the best, I really thought the Spirit was present and am very grateful to have had that experience.

Week 8

Now to my week.

The coolest part happened last Monday when we got to clean the temple. Two people were security guards, the rest of us changed into white scrubs and got to work. We started in the bride's room, which is beautiful, and we did other rooms that only girls are usually in. Then me and another elder went downstairs to their shop where we took apart chairs they use in the sessions. It was super cool, and I've never explored so much of the temple, especially not in tennis shoes.

Another cool part of the week was the Tuesday devotional, but I can't remember it anymore, I just know I wrote down that I would talk about it. It was a good one, and our district discussion after was also very nice.

We hosted on Wednesday. I had four elders, three going Stateside (two going to the same mission, the other had to be bused down to West Campus) and the last went to Marshall Islands. It was weird because I'm pretty sure he and his dad were talking in a foreign language, but he told me he didn't know any other languages, so maybe it was some dialect of English I don't know.

I forgot if I told you, but one elder going to France has to stay here three more weeks! That sounds like no fun. It's because his French passport didn't work out (he is a French citizen).

The Fourth of July was fun because we heard an amazing flute player (flutist or something?) play a bunch of American songs and then we watched 17 Miracles and then we watched the Stadium of Fire fireworks and we had no bedtime! Going to bed at 11:45 is pretty dang late as a missionary. :D

We also got to teach an investigator in English this week because her husband came and he doesn't speak Chinese. I am so glad I don't have to preach in English, because I really think the Lord gives you power in the language he called you in. It's so much easier in Chinese, even though my vocabulary is very limited.

We got our travel plans this week and our group of three is going through LA then Hong Kong (only one hour there, which is not very long) to Singapore flying through Cathay Pacific, I believe. I'm excited. I get to be travel leader, so I assign companionships, which luckily for me, won't be too hard. I'm glad we're going to Hong Kong because my companion's brother just got back from his mission there two weeks before he got in the MTC and he really wanted to see Hong Kong.

Our mission president had a little letter for us which just said send everything not warm-weathery home and don't bring two bags.

One highlight of the week was doing a baptismal interview for someone in the district's version of one of our investigators, and she didn't pass, so I told her that she was good, she just had to meet with the mission president first, and they never set that up, but it is pretend land, so she's probably baptized by now. I'm glad I got that experience, though, it was good.

Yesterday I bore my testimony in Chinese in Sacrament Meeting, and it was weird thinking that last time we had fast Sunday the people there who bore testimonies seemed so amazing at Chinese, but now I realize they really weren't.

Well, that's all for now, only one more week!

Week 7

Can you believe this is my third to last letter here at the MTC? It's crazy to think I'll be teaching real investigators soon, without learning much more Chinese first. When I got to the MTC, I thought the older generation was great at Chinese and if I could just get to where they were, I'd be set. Now I realize just how little they knew.

Well, I'll start my post with the most exciting part of the week. We got our Chinese tags! Our tags already had "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" in Chinese, but now we have the ones with our names in Chinese. My character is pretty cool, I'll maybe send a picture later. This week (we think), something even more exciting happens. We get our travel plans! That'll be fun to see, but ours is one of the few Chinese districts that isn't all going to the same mission, so it will be sad to realize how soon I leave my district.

Also this week, we three Singapore missionaries had a talk on Malaria with a doctor, which was fun. He also told us about other horrible sounding diseases we could get there, and Malaria sounds like the least of my worries. A teacher who served there told us not one of the missionaries ever took the pills (doxycycline) even once.

Today we get to clean the temple, which is pretty exciting, but it does take a long time, so that's why I'm writing this fairly early in the morning.

Oh, on Tuesday, we had Janice Kapp Perry do the devotional, and she was great, but the best part was definitely her husband. She told us the pick-up line that he first used on her (during music class, "Those lips look like they were made for more than playing the clarinet"), and then he quietly got up and grabbed her from behind and smooched her. Then later, we were singing a song and they had all the missionaries stand to sing it (and they always tell us not to stand when we sing). It may have been President Nalley's worst nightmare.

Yesterday in Sacrament meeting, my companion gave a talk. I think that means I may give one here, since there's only one more possible week. Also this week, we wondered why we haven't been asked to host yet, so we requested to, and we probably will only get to do it once before we go, which is sad. And Kirk has already done it!

Oh, and Elder Sheranian emailed me, and he is currently in Johor Bahru, which sounds pretty fun. He says they could use some Chinese speakers there. It is possible I'll serve there, since currently the MTC has 5 Singapore-bound Chinese speaking missionaries, which is probably like 1/2 of what's currently there. Only 15 more days until I'm there!!!!

Oh, I had a cough for a week or two, but it's pretty much over. And there was a balding elder somewhere in front of me to my right, I think. There was a red head two seats down from me.

Have a fun time at Hill Cumorah! I can't wait to find out what parts you'll be playing. Ge doesn't mean barge with my character, but even the native Mainland Chinese elders don't know what my character means.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Week 6

This week was a good one, but I'm starting to get anxious to get to Singapore, so time is slowing down. Anyway, I got sick on Monday, and I developed a cough, so I got a pack of cough drops, and it was bad, so I ate them all in like a day and a half, and then I saw I wasn't supposed to eat them more than every 2 hours. Oops. :D

But I don't have what the MTC is infested with: intestinal flu. We can't shake hands or anything right now. And two of my roommates have had it bad. One spent three hours the other night puking (even when there was nothing left). Speaking of sicknesses, yesterday at priesthood, this guy gave a talk and told stories about him going to India to help eradicate Smallpox. I guess he had a pretty good reputation in the medical community. Pretty much all the MTC leadership has cool backgrounds. Like a ton of the branch presidents have been mission presidents and stuff. And tomorrow we get educated on another sickness: Malaria! It should be fun. I heard someone at yesterday's broadcast behind me in the choir talking about how he and a few other elders got to pass the Sacrament to the meeting where the First Presidency and mission presidents attended. Super cool!

You were at the devotional yesterday, but it was a good one. The choir messed up, though, and they didn't let us into the Marriott Center for a very long time after getting there. And some elders decided they needed to be the first ones there and ran there, which seems a bit not missionary-like. Oh, well.

Oh, I talked more to the teacher who served in Singapore, and he gave us some good advice. He told us the weirdest things he ate were dog (yum!) and fish that apparently live in the open sewers. He told us to imagine the taste of a porta-potty. The Malays are the ones who eat these things, though, so we won't have them often. He said he took airplanes, subways, and boats between transfers. And he also said if we are planning to lose weight on the mission, even in East Malaysia, we won't. And I guess he only ever cooked breakfast. It was cheaper to eat out everywhere in the mission! Which is a good thing. The main building has been under lockdown, so we eat in the gym every day. It's weird to think so many general authorities are here often, and the prophet has been here at some point or another.

Today was our last temple trip for two years, but we do get a 3.5 hour service assignment next week to help clean it. That should be fun. Also, the Skype TRC was good, but slightly terrifying. We'll do it every week from here on out. One of the people had a bad connection and she was kind of frustrated with us. The other one was super nice, but she did laugh at us a few times. Our first teacher has been assigned to another district, which is sad, but we still get our other main teacher. Her dad is a Chinese Malaysian! Oh, and we got a cleaning check unexpectedly today (they are every week), which is the day we clean it every week, and we failed every category. It is kind of funny, but who knows what our punishment will be. It's clean the other 6 days of the week!

One of the Mainland China missionaries taught some kids in our district (who taught us) some pretty cool stuff about some characters in Chinese that has gospel symbolism. The character for ark has the radical for "boat" and the radical for "eight" in it. And the character for justice has the radical for "me" and the radical for "Lamb" connected. The character for "forbidden" (I think) has two "tree" radicals and one "god" radical, I think. Radicals just are little symbols that make up characters. He's a really cool guy! We get another generation this week, including a Finnish kid and two Singapore-bound missionaries. And then only two weeks until we are great-grand parents! Super cool!

Love, Andrew

Oh, I may have neglected to tell you about names. They are assigned before we get there and won't change. I am Ge (pronounced "Guh" in the low third tone) Zhanglao, which is elder. It means barge, I think. I don't know what my character is.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Week 5

This week was pretty good, and every week keeps getting faster. Tomorrow we will be the oldest generation of Mandarins here, which is so weird to think. When I got here I thought the oldest generation was super amazing at Chinese, but now I realize how bad they must have been.

On Tuesday we had the devotional at the Marriott Center, and me and the kids in my room were some of the first people there. It was one of the First Quorum of the Seventy guys who spoke, and it was good, but the seats are not too comfortable and the choir was probably over 1/2 the MTC. Yesterday's devotional came from Wyview, which was super weird. It was the Missionary Department head again and he gave the talk he was going to give that one time when he had something prepared but didn't give it because he felt prompted to talk about something else.

Another exciting thing that happened yesterday was that the First Counselor of the MTC came to our Sacrament Meeting and our branch split, since it was soon going to have 150+ missionaries. It's weird to think the day before we got in, it was only 35. There are now more Mandarins than Germans. I'm still in the same branch as Elder Humphries. The president of the new branch served a mission in India with his wife, which is super cool. He doesn't speak Chinese, though, so that might be a challenge for him.

I've seen Elder Norris a few times. He has the same gym time as I do.

Maybe I told you this was going to happen, but this week Elder Coloumbe (our missionary from Quebec going to Paris) had to go back to Montreal to appeal for his visa (most people go to San Francisco, since they are Americans) and he left at night, flew to Detroit, went alone to the consulate, then flew to Atlanta and back to Salt Lake City, in about 24 hours. Isn't that crazy? His companion got to sleep with us for two nights.

Tonight we get to do something exciting - Skype TRC to native members in Taiwan. We got to teach a nonmember on Saturday, too, which was interesting.

Maybe the coolest thing that happened this week was that I got a haircut, and they have this cool machine that pretty much vacuums your head. It actually wasn't that cool, but it was weird.

This week the mission president training is starting so the main MTC building will soon be blocked off to us, and we get to have sack lunches and breakfasts every day. Then we get the cool devotional thing at the Marriot Center after a huge MTC-wide sacrament meeting.

I talked to one of the teachers who served in Singapore, and he told us some cool stuff. He says at most there are 10 Chinese missionaries in the mission, and we are the first since September. There is a good chance I'll be with Elder Sutherland or Elder Mitchell in the field. He said that 4 missionaries are in Singapore, and the other ones switch around, but they are for sure in two cities in East Malaysia. He said East Malaysia is way more likely to go than West Malaysia for Chinese missionaries. And he said it's very unlikely I'll ever be paired with a Malay missionary.

Elders Earl

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The District

Week 4

This week has really flown by. Most of it has been spent studying, as usual, but there were some fun moments. This week we noticed on our schedule that we were getting a new investigator, and a couple hours before we were supposed to teach him/her, we asked our teacher about it. She left the classroom to figure it out, and when she came back, one district member confidently tried to yell to her, "I think YOU are our my new investigator!" in Chinese, but accidentally said, "I think YOU are my new girlfriend!". It was pretty funny.

Kirk arrived on Wednesday, but I didn't see him once until Saturday night at about 9pm. I've seen him six times now. His schedule is really weird, and it makes me much more grateful for mine. For example, I eat dinner at 5:50. He eats at 4, I think.

Another cool moment of the week was the TRC. They didn't have enough volunteers, so we were assigned to teach an older gentleman who worked here. Instead of teaching him, he taught us, and mostly in English. He told us that he was the fifth generation down from Oliver Cowdry (not direct, though), and that he converted to the church. A few years after he converted, he read a prophecy about Oliver Cowdry that said if he left the church, his family would be cursed up to the fourth generation, or something like that. I thought it was pretty cool. Our next investigator is actually from the seventh ward, which was really random.

The choir doubled in size yesterday, but still there wasn't enough room to fit everyone. About 1500 people wanted to join. And on the 23rd, we will join an 1100 member choir full of real musical people. From now on our devotionals will be in the Marriott Center on Tuesdays.

Other than that, my week has been pretty uneventful. All we really do is plan, study, teach, and go to class. Oh, last week our Sunday devotional was this guy who kind of acted like he was Willard Richards (IDK how to spell it), and he went through the whole Joseph Smith story. At first, I kind of thought it was weird, but it was actually a really cool and spiritual devotional. Joseph Smith prophesied several times in the days before he died that if he went to Carthage, he would be assassinated. He also had told Willard Richards years earlier that someday he would be in a place where bullets would fly past him on all sides, but not hit him. And that happened!

Well, talk to you next week.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Week 3

This week has gone by so quickly, though every day feels like an eternity. I'll tell you a bit more about my district, since I spend pretty much 24/7 with them. There are 11 elders. Five are in my room, six in the other. There are six beds and four closets in each room, so we have to share a bit, but it's not as crammed as I feared it might be. In my room, there is me, my companion, and a trio of elders going to Singapore, London South, and Brisbane. They are also our new zone leaders. It seems like everyone (but me) in the district is very smart. One of the elders in the other room was my favorite TA in computer science. One was waitlisted at Harvard, another was waitlisted at Stanford. One graduated high school a year early (he's a year younger than the rest of us, who are within 4 months in birth dates), one knows more Chinese than the rest of us. I'm impressed by all of them.

One interesting thing that happened this week was on Saturday, we did the TRC for the first time. We thought we'd be teaching people pretending to be investigators, but it was really just people who speak Chinese (most of them were Chinese) and want a spiritual lift for the day while helping missionaries practice Chinese. My companion and I weren't really prepared, but it was still a lot of fun and a good learning experience. We've been teaching two new progressing investigators (teachers who role play) this week, and we feel our teaching has improved significantly. However, we only teach for 20 minutes at a time, so sometimes we don't really even fit in a lesson.

We also got a new generation in this week, so our zone is over 100 people now. They are mostly going to Taiwan, but a few are going to three different missions in England. It's kind of nice not being the least familiar with Chinese anymore. The oldest generation is all leaving today and tomorrow, though, which is sad. I hope I can be as good at Chinese as they are by the time I leave. I've started doing flashcards and my words learned per day has significantly improved. Well, it's been a good week, and I'll write to you soon.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Week 2

This week has been full of ups and downs.

My companion and I taught what we thought was a great lesson on Monday, when we committed our investigator to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, but our next two lessons fell flat, and she even pretended to fall asleep at one point. I heard once that on your mission, your happiest and saddest moments will all come because of your investigators, and even though I'm not teaching real ones yet, I can already tell how true that is. However, both nights after our horrible lessons, we had very spiritual discussions as a district. We are definitely one of the tighter districts I've seen around here, and our teacher is one of the most humble and spiritual men I have ever met.

I've gotten a lot of gym time this week, and that's been really fun. Elder Emfield, who I know from high school, got injured in a soccer game we played, and he wasn't supposed to be off his crutches until Sunday, but on Saturday he played as goalie for our team and saved all but one shot all game long.

I've run into my school counselor, Mr. Nielson, and my high school principal, Mr. Baron this week separately. I've also run into several kids I knew in high school and junior high.

Choir has been one of the funnest things I've been involved in. We have performed once so far, but apparently we are going to perform at the Marriott Center on June 11, and then something really special is happening on the 23. I don't know what that is yet.

Chinese is coming along, but we are actually taught relatively little of it each week, so learning pretty much has to happen on our own. I'm surprised how difficult the tones are, though, I never expected that they'd be the greatest challenge of learning Chinese.

Our branch is also pretty cool, and strict in a good way. And about China opening to missionary work, my branch president said as a person who has worked with China for the majority of his life (he went on his Mission to Taiwan and is very good at Chinese, especially pronunciation), he thinks China will definitely open in our lifetimes, though not in the next two years. Our residence hall is also pretty cool, it's almost completely Chinese elders on our floor. Because it's so ancient, there are secret places called Narnia Holes everywhere, and people go to great lengths to find them (behind plugs and stuff). It's fun.

Last night we had the guy over all Missionaries speak to us, and he didn't give the talk he had prepared, but his talk was still one of the best ones I've ever heard.
Caught between suits

Monday, May 20, 2013

Week 1

Well, I think I may have left the wrong e-mail address with you, since I haven't gotten anything, but maybe you just haven't sent anything, I'm not sure. Sorry if I did give you the wrong one! I hope you are going to receive this e-mail. Everything is going good. I do have a question, though. What do you want me to do with my old tennis shoes you sent me?

Oh, thanks for the cookies. But don't send me donuts, since I don't want to be too fat. I'm still really bad at Chinese, but I've run into lots of friends here. Every day feels really long here. Monday is my P day, as you probably guessed. And you said in that package that you thought I'd e-mail you that day, and it is true that I could have, but they said that was so our parents knew we got to the MTC safely, and I'm sure you already knew that. Anyway, I don't have much else to say, since I don't know if you'll even get this. If you ever want to communicate with me, Dear Elder is the best option, by the way.

Oh, and by the way, Elder Humphries isn't in my district. My district is kind of all the random Mandarin missions. Singapore, Paris, Montreal, New York South, Brisbane, London, Lyon, and Toronto, I think. My companion is Elder Sutherland from Mapleton. His family breeds pythons and boas.

And our branch is entirely in Mandarin, so we have to give talks in Mandarin, sacrament prayers, etc. Luckily, in July, our branch will be over 150 people (right now it's 72, last week it was 36). We are teaching an investigator right now, and our lessons are pretty bad since we can't understand very much Chinese, or speak it.

I think I'm allowed to call you guys when I fly to Singapore, but you'll be at Hill Cumorah at the time, so it doesn't really matter anyway.

Guess what? I joined the MTC choir. It's probably the funnest thing I've done so far. Except maybe shower cleaning (no sarcasm).

-Elder Earl

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Entering the MTC

Elder Earl entered the MTC in Provo Wednesday, May 15th.
Giving a missionary farewell

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Mission

Hello, everybody! My name is Andrew Earl, I'll be a missionary for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints between May 2013 and May 2015, and this is my blog. I will be serving in the Singapore Mission, which includes all of Singapore and Malaysia, preaching in Mandarin Chinese. I report to the MTC in three days!