Monday, April 29, 2013

Solo Week 18

Hello Everyone!

Wow, I have now been in Solo for about four months! There is a chance I will be transferred soon, which will be sad, but I am looking forward to a new experience. Today is actually eight months on the mission to the day. As I think about it, it really has gone by fast. With this realization, I sometimes have to really slow down and focus on what my purpose is. It is great that my Mission is going by fast, but at the same time, I must always be sure that I am doing my best to bring others to Christ. Really, that is our purpose as Missionaries. We are not trying to increase the membership of the church; we are only trying to help others in their relationship with God and Jesus Christ, and their plan for us. Anyway, here are some highlights of the week:

One of our progressing investigators has been making some great progress lately. He had no belief or faith in Jesus Christ just a little bit ago, and now he has a strong testimony of our Savior. It has been so amazing to see his growth and strength in his family and life. Seeing him and many others grow in faith has really taught me how much Jesus Christ can bless our lives. All we have to do is put trust in him, like our investigator did, and he will bless us greatly.

My companion and I have also been working with the many inactive and less-active members here in Solo. We have actually had some great success with a few, and it has been a blessing to see them return to church and activity. We continue to help them transition back to the church, and we resolve any issues they might have had before. I have heard a few people here criticize this church for not going out for those members that may have gotten lost in this life. I promise that we do go after them, and that we care greatly for them. Honestly, most of our work here in Solo is focused on those lost sheep.

As far as unique activities this week, there were a few. The first was a trip to a member's house, which was very far away. We rode with the Bishopric, and helped the Sister that lived there move her Daughter's remains to another spot in the graveyard. It was a cool experience, and my companion was able to give the blessing on the new resting place. It was the first time I had seen that being done, so it was a cool experience. I felt sad for the Sister who lost her daughter when she was quite young, but it was great to see her faith in knowing that she would see her daughter again.

The other cool experience I had was to see a traditional Javanese wedding. It was a member of one of the wards here, but they were married traditionally before going to the temple. I think they will go fairly soon. The ceremony was much different than anything I had ever seen before, and a few members helped explain the process to me. 

During the ceremony, they only spoke Javanese, so I had to have my companion and other members translate for me so I could know what was going on! The other Elders and myself drew quite a bit of attention from people, who did not know us, which I think was a good thing. I was glad to learn about the unique culture that is very prevalent here in Solo.

The food at the wedding was delicious!
 This Mission has been blessing my life in so many ways. There is no better way to learn more about the Savior than to follow in his footsteps the best we can. Obviously, we are all not perfect, but as we continually strive to become like him through our words, deeds, and thoughts, God will see our faith, and make us strong. I often think of Ether 12:27 where it states that God will make our weaknesses strong in him. I thank you all for all the love and support you have given me, and I look forward to emailing all of you again!

-Elder James

This is another cool Indonesian sport--it's like volleyball, but you use your feet and head!

This is our mission couple's driver, Frankie--he's really nice!

Elder Lee at English class.

Playing "cowboys" with some member boys.
Essentially it is just letting them shoot me with Nerf guns! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Solo Week 17

Hello again friends and family!

This week has been great, and I have had some fun experiences. I am sorry that the photos I sent are not the best of quality. The computer I am on is not very fast, and so I had to compress them to really bad quality. But bad quality pictures are better than none. Right?

Like I said in the last few emails, I am having a really good time here in Solo. I hope I have a lot of time left here. We have been doing well with the little investigators we have, and although it can be disappointing when they do not always follow through on their commitments, it is great to see what progress they make.

One change that I have seen happen in my mission is the transition to an Indonesian view on money. I cringe at the fact sometimes I have to pay $2 for lunch, or I stress when a bill to fix my entire bike comes to $8.50. This sure does help me manage my money better, and it really comes in handy when finding cheap things. The food here has been an experience by itself, and my body is still getting used to all the different types. 

My companion and I have been getting along better than ever, and we work hard. I am so glad that he has been such a great example to me, and I hope I can be a good example to other Missionaries as well. We have been getting really close to the members, and they help us with just about everything.

Recently, we were invited to the Bishop's house to celebrate his mother-in-law's birthday. As we were biking over there, it began to rain really hard. We stopped at his dealership where he works, since it was close, and waited for a bit. Then he loaded our bikes in the back of a truck, and we drove the rest of the way! That was a blessing for sure. The party was a lot of fun at his house, with lots of food, and I loved playing with hot wheels with the kids. 

This past weekend was Stake Conference for all of Central Java. The first session started on Saturday night, and myself and a few other Missionaries were asked to help with translation. I explained that there were other Missionaries with much more language experience, and they simply said it would be a good learning experience. I was pretty scared! We used a system where we talked into a microphone, and the ten or so Americans listened with headphones. They were mostly Mission couples from around the Mission. We switched off between us Missionaries and a few members, and I did an okay job. Just like they said, it was a learning experience for sure. It was also really fun to see many members from Semarang and to visit with all the Missionaries.

Sunday morning was the next session, and instead of being held at the church, it was held at a reception center. The center was really nice, and it fit a lot of people. I was really impressed at the amount of people that came. I did translations for this meeting as well, and all the Missionaries in Solo participated in a youth choir led by Sister Greenway. We sang three songs during the meeting, and it was a blast. All the practice that we did was well worth it. The spirit was very strong! Many leaders from the Stake spoke, as well as President and Sister Groberg. They gave great advice and I was glad I could understand their talks. 

I wish I could go into detail about all the other cool things that happened this week, like buying ties, three for $1, but I am about out of time. Thank you all for your letters and prayers. I really feel the faith and support of you all constantly. I hope I will be able to make you all proud here! I am learning so much, and my testimony is being built every day.

Sampai minggu depan! {Until next week!}

-Elder James


Monday, April 15, 2013

Solo Week 16

Selamat Siang semuanya!

I hope you all had a great week. Mine was pretty normal, other than watching conference on Saturday and Sunday. We have still been doing great with our few investigators, and I am getting closer and closer to the members. In a way I dread the day that I move from Solo. It will be a great experience to learn a new city, but I hope I stay here for at least another two months! It has been very hot lately, and I do not think I will ever get used to it! Here are a few cool things that happened this past week.

The new Elders that came to Solo are Elder Watson and Elder Lopis. They are both really great Missionaries, and I have had a good time getting to know them. Elder Lopis is in my house, and it was really funny how he came to our house via Becak from the church. I am not sure how he sat on it, along with all his luggage! He is happy to be in Solo, and he will do great here.

My companion and I usually try to go to a member's house each week and get to know them a little better. This has been a great thing to do, and we have really built relationships with the many members of the ward. This past week we visited Sister Budi, who fed us a great deal of food, and told us some funny stories. She was very kind to us, and offered for us to come back again. I think building trust in the ward where a Missionary serves is really important. Without their work and help, we could not do as much as we would like.

Just like last week, the Bishop's family took us out to eat again! This time we went to Pizza Hut. This may not sound that nice over there in America, but here it is one of the classiest restaurants in town. I felt just like I was back at home, eating pizza and drinking soda. I am so happy that the Bishop's family spoils us so much!

I know everyone reading this really liked conference. I was so grateful that I was able to watch it in English because of the help from the Mission couples. On Saturday we were able to watch it on a big screen with a projector, and on Sunday we watched it on a computer. Two of my favorite talks were from Elder Holland and Elder Christofferson. I really applied Elder Christofferson's talk to our work as Missionaries. We help other feel the great redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ by repenting and coming to him. This really made me enthusiastic to get working hard here in Indonesia. The General Authorities are such amazing men, and I feel blessed to have their influence in the world.

The Paragon Mall
I am sorry this is so short. The internet cafe we are at is not the regular one, and it is really slow. I am having a hard time typing on this sticky keyboard, and I am sweating like crazy. But I will email again next week, and I hope it will be much better! I would encourage all of you to read all the General Conference addresses in order to understand and ponder them more effectively. I know everything they said is true, and can help us all in this crazy world. Thank you all for your support!

-Elder James

Monday, April 8, 2013

Solo Week 15

Selamat Siang semuanya!

Can you all believe that I have already been in Solo for fifteen weeks! I sure can't. These three months have gone by so fast, which really shows how much I love this city. The church is well known here, which can be a really good thing, and a bad thing. But we are making some good progress, and have a few investigators who have baptisim commitments. This week has also been one full of delicious meals, and great experiences. Here are some highlights of the week.

Since this past week was the first week of the month, we had our zone conference on Tuesday. All the Missionaries from Central Java came, stayed over on Monday night, and then we had the meeting on Tuesday. It was a lot of fun to see everyone, and President Groberg gave some great advice to help us become better Missionaries. It might be his last one before he returns home, so I was glad to see him and Sister Groberg. Also, three Missionaries in our Zone were about to return home, so they bore their testimonies and gave advice. It was a cool experience! We all played futsol together as well.

This past week, as I said earlier, we have had some great success with a few investigators. One in particular is really making progress with a smoking addiction, and he has a baptism date for the fifth of May. We have been teaching him twice a week in order to prepare, and he is making incredible progress. It is so rewarding to see these kinds of things as a Missionary. The other investigator with a baptism date just had a baby, and he is really beginning to feel the spirit more in his life. He is opening up more and more to us Missionaries, which helps us teach according to his needs. We also have received a few referrals from the Senior Mission couples and a few members. I pray that we will have success with them as well. We also have continued to contact many people during our service time. This past one was a lot of fun, and we played American Football a little bit afterwards. 

I was able to take a picture of the place we regularly eat, so you can see how great it is!

Another notable thing that I experienced this week was many different appointments and invitations with tons of food. My companion and I visited a family in the ward, and then they took us out to eat. The place had amazing seafood, and that is what we all got! It was the first time I had crab in Indonesia, and it was different, but really good. I felt so lucky to have such an amazing meal! But that is not all. The next day, on Saturday, I was on exchanges with Elder Lee. We helped the Bishop's wife translate something into English, and they invited us to eat again! We had one more appointment, but when we went there, he was not home. So we met the Bishop's family, and they took us out to a place better than the first! It was seafood again, and the shrimp was especially delicious. I was so full after that. But that is still not all. After church, we ate a huge meal with a non-active family, which filled me up, but then that night we were invited to another member's house, where we ate an even bigger meal! I was so full. They insisted on us having more and more, and they would not let us leave until we finished all the food. I was about to die!

Conference will actually be next weekend for me, since that is when everyone here watches it. I think they do that to make sure all the translations are correct. I am really excited as always to hear from our amazing leaders. I think what really helps me prepare for conference is to write down many questions or trials I am having, so I can see what answers come. I did this in the MTC, and found incredible results. Just today, Elder Hasibuan moved to Sudiarjo, and Elder Wagstaff is on his way home. They were both great Missionaries, and I was so lucky to serve with them both. I am also excited to meet the new Missionaries that are coming in.

Recently, I have spoken with someone who has a really hard time accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. They point out many of his mistakes and faults throughout his life in order to prove that he was not a prophet. This made an impression on me, and I prayed very fervently that night to receive an answer and help. What I felt was this: A prophet is a man. He is not a perfect person, and he has faults like us all. What separates him from others is the fact that he is called of God to speak in his name. There are standards of worthiness for sure, but one of those is not perfection. Joseph Smith was not the only prophet to make mistakes. Study Moses', Abraham’s, or other ancient prophet's lives and you will find imperfections as well. We cannot derive a conclusion that one is not a prophet from his uninspired works. We have to make a decision through his inspired works, and then pray. An answer will come to one who asks in faith and sincerity. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I also know he was a person, like you and me, with faults and trials. God always speaks through prophets as we read in Enos 3:7. It only makes sense that he would communicate with us today because of his perfect love for us. I know this is true!

Thank you for all your support as always. I wish you will all have a great upcoming week, and enjoy the wonderful blessings God has given us. Sampai minggu dapan!

-Elder James