Sunday, April 24, 2016

Pray for Yemen

The first week of the new semester is over already. It has been good and I have great students (some lack motivation, but we will work on that).  I am teaching two different classes (4 sections) that I have taught before, so this semester may be less busy for me. Which is great. I am looking forward to enjoying the beautiful weather and taking a break from a crazy life for a change. Last semester was simply too busy and a break is certainly needed. Even my few days off were so amazing and I felt my mind and body work way better after the much needed rest.
Our stake is changing some ward boundaries, so it will be interesting to see where we end up next month. I have been eager to find a house and move out of an apartment complex. It is hard to live here because we have so many students in our ward and so the ward changes so fast. It is hard to get to know anyone or form any real friends. I would like to be in a stable ward. I am actually hoping to get a house close to my friend Danae, but we will see if that will work.

I also am thinking of buying a car, I like my car, but it is getting rather old and I am not too fond of the 2-door style. Now you may be thinking I won the lottery...nope, I wish. But, I think both things will be a good investment especially the house. Interest rates are lower than they ever were, so I may take advantage of that.

My mother had surgery on her other eye and she is doing well. She says she can see better which is great. The hardest thing for me has been not being able to see my mom, but I don't feel I should go home this summer. We will see what will happen next summer, but for now, I am hanging around. I am probably going to go to Washington this summer to visit my nephew, but I still don't have a set plan.

I have been in touch with a friend from Yemen.  For his protection, I will call him Shadi (this is not his real name). He is probably the only member of the church in the whole country.  He was a Muslim and miraculously, he managed to join the church. His testimony and his faith are so strong.  I would like to share with you a little bit about him. He is married and has two sons. Heavenly Father has protected him and his family while they were in a dark basement (no electricity) with bombs falling all around them and they had no food or water. 

While in these difficult situations I would often tell him that he should leave Yemen and seek a better life. He would often decline saying that, at least for now, he felt that Heavenly Father wanted him to stay there.

Recently, he told me that his wife's father and her siblings were killed in an explosion. So his wife left to be with her mother in Sanaa'. Her family now won't let her go back to be with Shadi telling her that he has betrayed his Muslim faith and she should leave him.  

Shadi's friend and neighbor along with all his family (who are Protestant Christians) were all slaughtered by ISIS. And while ISIS looked through the phone of this neighbor, they discovered that Shadi was now Christian too. So, they went to Shadi's house to try and kill him as well. Luckily he was not at home that day. But, ISIS basically destroyed his house and tore up everything.

Needless to say, he did not return home ever again. He left and is now a refugee in another country along with one of his sons. His wife and his other son remain in Yemen.  

This sweet man has taught me so much about faith and trust in the Lord. Through all these difficult times, every time I ask how he is, he always expresses gratitude to God for protection and safety and every time I speak to him he acknowledges all the miracles he has seen in his life. Shadi told me the other day that he has felt the help and guidance from the Holy Ghost during this difficult time.
He said:
"Faith has an indescribable sweetness that only manifests itself during hardships."
للايمان حلاوة لا توصف تظهر أثناء المعاناة
The way he said it (in Arabic) sounds better, sorry...

The situation in many Arab countries is bad. Innocent people are suffering and many are dying. I hope we all can join our voices and pray for those people that are homeless and helpless. It may not mean much to us unless one of them is a friend, or a relative...but I hope we can all remember that they are our brothers and sisters. If we can't lend a hand, at least we can pray that someone will.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fun times and good news

I assume you all know by now that I was offered a full-time position at BYU-Idaho. I have been teaching there as a visiting faculty and I absolutely love my job. I am really happy about the opportunity of being here long-term. It was a long waiting process as I had my interview over 3 months ago, so I am glad the waiting game is over!
The short week break between Winter and Spring semester is over and we start a new semester tomorrow. However, as short as the break was, I felt I got the rest I so desperately needed. Winter has been a stressful semester and so I was glad when I finally submitted the grades.

The fireside I gave last week for the youth went well. I talked about conversion and related it to how olives are turned into oil. On Monday I had an interview at the Church History Library and so there is now information about me on record ;-) 
One of my stories about forgiveness will be published in my friend's book in August. My book that I am writing has also been going well and I am hoping to get a final draft this year to send to Deseret Book. I am still worried they may not want to publish it, but I can always look for another company. 

I had to replace the brakes on my car. The back brakes were pretty bad and I had to pay $500 to replace them. Car shops here are so expensive. 
I was blessed to have one of my students (who also served with me in England) offer to change my front brakes for me. It cost me less than half of what it would have costed at a repair shop. See, it pays to be a teacher! Thank you Jeremy, you are a lifesaver.
During the break two of my colleagues and I went on a trip to Twin Falls and visiting Craters of the moon and Shoshone Falls. We also visited the Twin Falls temple which looks exactly like the Rexburg temple (except smaller) on the outside. Thank you Susan and Danae for a fun trip. It is great to finally have good weather. Good enough to go on trips and see the beautiful areas all around us. 

I would say however that the weather here is the strangest I have ever seen. I left my home on Friday at around noon. It was sunny and warm that I felt I did not need a jacket. I went to lunch in Idaho falls, and as I was sitting in the restaurant, it started to snow and was windy.  I mean there was snow on my car when I got out of the restaurant.  After I left Walmart, 20 minutes later, it was sunny again. Then half an hour later as I pulled into the parking lot on campus hail started to fall!!! Totally confused on what season we are on!! It is spring Idaho...get that through your thick head. Sun and flowers would be nice.

Below are some pictures from our trip last week:
At the Twin Falls Temple:

View from a restaurant we ate at in Twin Falls:

Shoshone Falls:

Craters of the Moon national park:

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The end

No, it is not the end of the world...Just the end of the semester. I am not sure if I should be happy about this because we will start again next week. I feel I am in desperate need of a break, but sadly I won't get one until this summer. 

I was in Utah last week translating for conference. On Monday I went to a conference organized by BYU about refugees. It was pretty amazing and the talks given were great. It made me sad to realize the magnitude of the refugee problem. However, I know that even if each of us do a little bit of effort we can make a difference.

Elder Carlson of the seventy was there and he spoke. I was not sure he would remember me as we met briefly only once. I went up to him and was amazed that he remembered me, and his wife said "you went on your mission to England"...I was impressed that they have such amazing memory considering how many people they meet.

 My talk for the conference went well. Speaking so late in the program whatever you have prepared has already been said...But, I did talk a little about Palestinian refugees.

I am in Utah today and tomorrow. I started getting some noise from my brakes and decided to go take my car in on Saturday to get it checked. It cost $500 to fix the back brakes and I had to wait for hours for it to be done. I have to get the front brakes done as well and that is another $200. I am thinking I really need a new car!

I should hear back from BYU-I about the position next week (at least I am hoping to)...then maybe I can look into buying a car. It would be nice to have a house too, but we will see.

I am giving a fireside today for the youth in Kaysville, Utah. I hope it will go well...
My friend Breanne happened to be kaysville yesterday so we got to spend some time together and talk about memories from Palestine and serving together in the Bethlehem Branch. 

I am loving the spring weather and flowers here in Utah. It is pretty cool...we should get some spring in Rexburg, oh in two months or so ;-)

Finals are over and I actually got done with grading before graduation this year. So, it was nice. Elder Rasband came and spoke at the graduation. It is always fun to attend graduation. It is the only time I feel I am actually at a university. I don't know why, but I feel I work at a church instead of a university a lot of times. Just because we pray a lot, talk about the gospel a lot, and seem to serve and help students all the time. There is education going on in the middle there, and I do spend a lot of time grading and preparing for class, but I often don't feel it is the most important thing I do at BYU-Idaho. And I love that!


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Utah and general conference

This will not be a long post...I just did not want to skip a week.

The fact that I survived last week is a pretty good thing. I finished all the material I had to teach and answered the students questions and tried to deal with many issues.  On Friday I had students in my office starting from 8 am until 4 pm when I left to drive down to Utah. I didn't have time to eat lunch or go to the bathroom all day. 

I was so exhausted when I got to the hotel but was so glad to finally be resting.

So, I discovered Utah is one season ahead of us. We still have Winter in Rexburg, and they have Spring here. flowers and blooming trees...and warmth and sunshine. I love Utah!

The last two days were busy with translation. I felt I didn't do that much this time to help with translation, which was good for me because I was barely breathing with everything I had to do. 
I was impressed at how the Arabic translation team always pulls things off during conference even when some talks have not been translated or when we don't have printouts. I jumped in to interpret for Elder Oaks and I messed up (I was the only one) because the pages were out of order so I got confused. Here is our dedicated translation team: 

There are 57 or so languages that are being translated into in those small booths in the conference center. The church translates conference into 94 different languages. The speaker today asked us to try and name 40 different languages and I thought that I could, but I had to stop since I ran out of languages that I know.  

I wanted so badly today to take a picture of all the interpreters during devotional. There were over 50 nationalities there, and as they sang the hymn there was even a group who sang in sign language. (the languages being done here are on the sign behind me)

We got to hear the 4 new temples that were announced before everyone else did...None of the new temples was in the US. This proves that this is an international church and the gospel is reaching people all over the world.

The talks were amazing! I loved especially Elder Kearon's talk about refugees. I am participating in the Refugee conference at BYU tomorrow, so I thought he gave me some ideas of things to mention in my presentation. Below is my little effort to serve the refugees. We made these little dolls out of socks as part of a service project at church. I made 6 dolls ;-)

 It was nice to visit my friend Emily while in Utah and see her new baby for the first time. Ameer is so cute! Thanks Emily and Tony for the nice dinner as well...The Thai food was amazing!

I will be giving a fireside for the youth in Farmington next week, so I will be back in Utah next week. This week we have our final exams and I will be even more busy. But, at least we get a few days off. Actually I will almost have no time at all to set up my classes and get everything ready in those few days. We only have one week break between semesters. I desperately need a break! Sadly, I won't get one...Until summer!