This past week has brought us to the beginning of January 2014! A New Year! This marks the beginning of my full, 365-days, 12-months straight, one complete numerical year as a missionary! As the Greeks would say it: "Whoopah!" :) And as the Chinese would say it: "Gan Bei!" :)
Fun fact: Throwing a New Years Party for Chinese, Iban, and Filipinos is a long and hard project, but well worth it. Especially the food turnout :) There was a LOT of it! The night of December 31st saw me gain a couple pounds; of that I'm pretty sure :)
This past New Year was kinda strange, mostly because I'm in Malaysia and not the States. It has been a little interesting of an experience, thinking back on New Years past, remembering all the times that me and my dad and my brother would play Lord of the Rings Monopoly till the New Year and then go out on the front porch and bang pots and pans together and make as much ruckus as possible to ring in the New Year. Fun fun fun :) I've missed it a lot, but the New Year Party we had here, as well as all the new possibilities and adventures this upcoming year are going to bring surely outweigh any longings I do have.
The past week went well; we've been busy at work here in Miri inviting others to come unto Christ. Me and my companion had a pretty kool experience last night. We had a scheduled appointment with a less-active at; however, by the time rolled around we found ourselves biking in the midst of a kampung neighborhood, completely lost and turned around. We decided to head in the general direction of this less active's house, sticking to roads that were well-lit and that would take us generally towards where we needed to go. We biked for a good while, and covered a good amount of ground, but eventually found ourselves at a dead-end road that was good for nothing ;)
We turned our bikes around and saw another little road that led off in another direction. However, there were people back at the end of this other little road. Maybe they could help us? We crossed a stream using a wooden plank and then climbed up a small incline to reach these people clustered together, smoking and talking whilst revving their moto engines.
We went up to one and said, "Can you help us? We're looking for (such-and-such place)."
He smiled, "Just go to the highway."
Gulping, I nodded and said, "Yeah...but where's the highway?"
He shrewdly smiled again and said, "Follow me."
Now: In normal situations I would like to caution against doing what me and my companion did. But whatevs. Anywho, he started off on his moto, and we followed. He took us along a winding trek through the midst of the kampung, eventually bringing us to the highway. We thanked him profusely, and after he had biked away and we had gone a little farther ourselves in the direction of the less active's house, we pulled over and said a prayer of gratitude.
I learned a valuable lesson from this story, a lesson that has played quite nicely into my Personal Studies these past few days. Me and my companion had to go as far as we possibly could, and it was then and only then that we received the help we needed. The Lord expects us to take what we've learned, our talents and our abilities, our strengths and even our weaknesses, our love and our service, and use those things to go as far as we can, to do His will to the best of our ability. Then, as we place trust and confidence and faith and hope in Him, He carries us the rest of the way.
This past week I've learned lots about TRUSTING in Him, having FAITH in Him, and recognizing that it is through Him that we are able to succeed (Preach My Gospel and True to the Faith both term this final qualification as HUMILITY). Trust, Faith, Humility. Recognizing that the Lord is our source of strength, trusting in His judgments, following Him in faith into the uncertainties ahead. I must be honest, I've not always been good at this. I have a very logical mind that likes to know every last little detail of a venture before I embark on it (although there are the occasional times when I completely abandon logic and dive headlong into a project without really pondering or thinking about it at all). In either scenario, I either demand for all of the facts or for none of them, both of which are really rash and foolish. I've been taught and chastened and corrected and instructed this week on how to better TRUST and have FAITH in Christ while relying HUMBLY on His merits and mercy. It is at times a challenge, releasing your hold on what you think is correct and letting the Lord have His way...but I'm coming to learn that this is the way we need to go. I'm by no means perfect at this; I have a feeling there will still be several more Personal Studies dedicated to this topic and several experiences amongst the people that confirm its reality in the near future. However, I am very grateful that I am being given the opportunity to learn about these things and grow in their knowledge.
I'm so grateful for this Gospel. It fills me with a peace found nowhere else (yep, the peace this Gospel brings is even more powerful than that really kool feeling you get when watching one of those really profound and epic moments in the Lord of the Rings :) ). It fills me with a desire to be better, even when I think I'm doing pretty good meself. It fills me with a hope that death does not separate us forever. It fills me with a faith that buoys me up and helps me to see the good in life. It fills my heart and my might and my mind and my strength and my soul. It fills me. That's about the only way I can accurately describe it: The Gospel fills me :)
I love you all. I'm so grateful for your friendship and your examples to me, which keep me going when times are hard. I'm so grateful for your light that you let shine for others. I'm so grateful for all y'all and hope you had a very Merry New Year ;)
Till we chat again,
Elder Mitchell/Mai Zhanglao :)