August 26, 2012
It is amazing what a difference a week can make! First of all, we are both finally sleeping at night and waking up refreshed and ready to conquer the world. Our familiarity with the area has increased from 1 city block to 3 or 4, plus we are familiar with a couple of tram and train lines. We know the names of all the missionaries we are working with and sometimes can remember names of 10 - 12 Chinese students. We attended our first Zone Conference (good, but very long) had one pair of missionaries to our flat to dinner, and I went on a 6 mile run along the Yarra River without getting lost.
We are getting used to the oddities of our little flat, which is very little. Two of the light fixtures only work part of the time, the tv doesn't work, and the shower turn on knobs are outside of the shower, so adjusting the temperature creates a bit of a challenge. It seems that the oven works part of the time. It took 45 minutes to bake a pan of brownies, yet a roast was cooked to a crisp at what was supposed to be a low temperature in a couple of hours. We are in close proximity to a tram line, a "footie" field, 440 meter track, a farmers market, supermarkets, a mall, lots of shops, hundreds of mostly Asian food restaurants, and less than 3/4 of a mile from a huge IKEA store. I've really enjoyed all the walking, and I think Max is losing weight, because he's had to tighten his belt another notch. It seems people on the street don't make eye contact with anyone else, but if you ask a question, they are extremely friendly and eager to talk and help in any way. We met a man the other day who had a small pet bird perched on his shoulder. He said he had rescued it, because it got kicked out of the nest. The bird was colored in brilliant shades of blue, yellow, and green and was very tame. It only had one foot; maybe why it was kicked out of the nest. I think he called it a lourakeet.
This weekend we attended the baptisms of 4 Chinese students and 3 Vietnamese students. We hope that since most of the students will return to China, that their faith and testimony will remain strong, and that they will be able to help build up the Church in their country. It is amazing to witness the teaching of the students, and though we mostly sit and try to stay awake during the Chinese discussions, sometimes we are asked to bear our testimonies in English. We spend lots of time visiting and interacting with the students, and they are very kind to us. They are studious and interested in learning English, so they can pass a competency test. I teach an English class once a week, and the skill levels of the students differs to a very wide degree.
Even though we have been here less than two weeks, we feel that this missionary assignment is the best in the Church. The Chinese students are great, but we also get to interact daily with 16 dedicated and faithful missionaries. We are amazed at how hard they work and how much teaching they do. It's like having our own grandsons with us every day. We loved watching them crowding around the mail desk at Zone Conference, hoping for a package from home, and then getting excited about really small things....like a Pez dispenser, Chex Mix, or a key chain. Make a young missionary happy and send them a package.
Thanks for your prayers and faith on our behalf, and please keep it up. I know a power beyond our own pulled us through that first week.