Sunday, April 17, 2011

LDS Branch in Penang

Thanks to my mom, the internet, and a knowledgeable taxi driver, I was able to find the building in which the LDS branch here in Penang meets. What a LOVELY branch. The members were all very eager to introduce themselves to me, and I was also quickly introduced to the other Americans in the branch. I was shocked and amazed to discover that the first American I met, Sis. Shaw, was born in Hurricane, UT! Haha…the church really is a small world, you know. She didn’t grow up in Hurricane, so we didn’t know any of the same people, and I forgot to ask her maiden name… She and her husband now call American Fork home, but they are working for a company here in Penang. Sis. Shaw informed me that another couple in the ward—the Hinton’s—were from the states, and Brother Hinton hailed from Hurricane as well (I thought he might as soon as I heard the name). Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet the Hinton’s as they are currently in Phuket, Thailand with their quadruplets.

During Sacrament meeting, a young man was confirmed a member of the church—according to Sister Shaw, he is fifteen years old and discovered the church online just a couple of months ago. He came to church out of curiosity, and shortly thereafter, decided to get baptized. Only fifteen and he could make a decision like that... I met him briefly after church, and was very impressed with his sharpness. Really happy, very bright kid. I’m glad he’s found the gospel.

I sat next to Sis. Le Blanc in Sunday school—she was the first person to introduce herself to me in sacrament meeting, and was sure to quickly write down her contact information for me in case I ever come back to Penang and need a place to stay. I loved being able to participate in the Sunday School lesson, which was taught in English (most Malaysians here in Penang speak fluent English), and I was even asked to say the closing prayer in Relief Society!

I met another American in Relief Society named Sister Horrocks. I found out she was the branch’s choir director and asked if I could join in singing with them after church. She consented, but warned me not to expect too much. She said that they all sang in unison because if she tried to get them to do parts, it would scare them from coming to choir practice. I laughed and said I understood as I was trying to start my own children’s choir in Thailand. She mentioned to me that her Dad was a choir director, but that it wasn’t a talent that she really felt she had…but she did her best. I asked what kind of choir her father directed—“Does he teach in schools?” She replied, “Well, he directed the Tabernacle Choir for 16 years, but now—“ I stopped her with my wide eyes. “Who’s your Dad?!” It was, of course, Craig Jessop. I felt kind of in awe. Out of four American families in the ward, three have roots in Hurricane or St. George, and the other one consists Craig Jessop’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandson (who is an adorable kid, also named Craig). Suddenly, I understood why she told me she would be nervous to have her father come visit while she had the calling of choir director. Wow.

Choir was nice, and afterwards I was able to receive a much needed Priesthood blessing from Brother Horrocks and one of the other Priesthood holders in the ward before someone gave me a ride back to my hostel. I’m now sitting in my room listening to video clips of Mo-tab on Youtube, and feeling a peace and joy that I haven’t felt in a long time.

I finally got to take the sacrament today for the first time in over three months. There is so much power in that ordinance. Sometimes, when we take it every week, I think it’s easy to take the sacrament for granted. Being able to participate in it after weeks of not being at church, gave me a completely new appreciation for it—and a new appreciation for church in general. It’s not that the rest of the world is evil and bad—there are a LOT of good people in the world doing the best they can—however, most of them are pretty lost and they don’t have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. I felt a major difference in the air as soon as I stepped into the chapel today.

Even though I’ve been trying to do service for God’s children on the Burmese border in hopes that it will improve who I am, I felt like I gained more from 1 day in church than I have in the entire three months I’ve been in Sangkhlaburi.

I LOVE the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I testify that it’s true. I felt that more strongly today than I ever have in my life. I’ve spent a lot of the past three months questioning my beliefs—everyone believes that their beliefs are the “right” ones, right? How do we know that ours really is the fullness of the gospel here on the earth? How do we really know that God is even there—I’ve never seen Him. I’ve never heard His voice calling me from the heavens. All religions have stories and all people have reasons for believing what they do—so what gives us the gall to claim that our church is the truth?

True, we have some BEAUTIFUL hymns, really friendly members, sharp looking missionaries, lovely church buildings and temples, and the organization and workings of our church stay consistent throughout the world—but that isn’t enough to claim we have the “true” church.

We can’t even honestly say that our church is the only one that has the spirit. Since I’ve come to Asia, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in various religious ceremonies and have many religious based conversations with many people of a multitude of faiths. I’ve felt a sense of the spirit—or some kind of good spiritual/emotional feeling during many of these practices and discussions. Just last night I attended a Hindi ceremony and was completely caught up in the beautiful colors of the clothing, the smell of sandal wood incense, and the excitement of the priests coming around to smear ashes on everyone’s forehead as a blessing.

However, we do have something that no other church has—a still small voice that whispers, “This is it. This is the truth.” I felt that voice today—it struck me to my core. After experiencing the many idols, colors, and bright spectacles in the Hindu temple yesterday, it almost surprised me how piercing the simple ceremonies and doctrine of our church were to me today. I was reminded of the story of Elijah when he was on the mountain and….actually, I’m just going to quote it. It’s in 1 Kings 18:11-13:

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

God doesn’t need spectacle—He has the truth. He is the truth.

Something changed in me today. It’s as if I were a character in a cartoon strip—caught up in my 2-demensional world of face-book, music, relationships, school, foreign lands, and other 2-D things. I’ve been trying to make sense of the little box I’m in, and it makes me frustrated that I can’t see into the next frame. I keep thinking that if I can just make the right decision, then maybe one of the frames I end up in will be open ended—that I’ll be able to see from one frame to the next without guessing where I’m jumping to; And then I won’t feel so trapped by the walls around the little cartoon box I’m in.

Today, I somehow was able to look up into the 3-D world and glimpse my Creator. I realized that seeing what’s in the next frame isn’t what matters—my job is to trust in His ability to see the next frame and to keep walking while learning things from and experiencing fully the frame I’m in. If I ever feel trapped by my lack of ability to make sense of my life, all I need to do is look up and remember that God knows where I’m going, even when I don’t. My world is just an illusion anyways—what really matters, is His world—and the more I look up, the more I become ensconced in reality.

The trick is figuring out how to look up. Scripture study and prayer are great tools—but not enough. We need the fellowship and the ordinances that church provides us with. I need them. I have no clue what direction my life is about to take in the next few months—or even weeks for that matter; however, I refuse to go another three months without attending church. It’s too important to me and I’ve missed it too much. This means that I’ll be making some changes. Whether that’s a change in location, or a change in my spending and schedule so that I can afford the 6 hour drive to Bangkok for church , I haven’t figured out yet…but something will be changing. I’ll try to keep you posted.


  1. Kimber,
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful experiences and especially your testimony. I love reading your posts, but this one is my favorite. You are wonderful and I love you.

  2. beautiful, to be sure. I'm excited by your testimony of faith. :)

    I was sad that last week you got conference instead of a ward, but that makes me all the happier that you had this week as well. :) Church really is a beautiful thing. I went to my home ward today for the first time in quite a while and I was struck by a lot of impressions. (One of them being that the sound of little children in sacrament meeting doesn't distract me from the sacrament anymore than the college kid next to me who's texting or cuddling with their significant other.) Andrew has a cold. (Probably a cozy cold.) ;) and I spent a lot of time wiping snot off his face. Funny how such a...gross activity just made me feel closer to my Lord because it was service. :)

    Thanks for the note to look at this. Definitely the best treat of my Sunday so far. :)

  3. Kimber you touched my heart. Thank you :)

  4. wow. what a powerful and beautiful testimony! Thanks for sharing it. Do you mind if I share this with Sean? Look forward to seeing you. I'm sure that wasn't easy to decide to come home, but you are wise and being guided by the Spirit.