Monday, August 26, 2013

Sister Wright's birthday
Elders doing the hokey pokey with Sister Wright
 Sister Gafeo and Sister Nok

 Games at FHE
 Doing the loser dance. haha
 making little cups out of palm leaves
 Min's friends cutting up palm leaves
 Min and Sister Mullen
 Min's grandma
 branch choir
With sister Yuen

"Country Road" in Mahasarakham

Hello familia!!!

Okay, so this week was great! As a mission, each week we are supposed to have the goal of having "balanced key indicators" which means: 2 investigators with a baptismal date, two new investigators/week, 10 lessons taught with a member present/RCLA lessons, and 2 people at church. It's way harder than it seems. This week we were so hopeful that we would actually reach our goal. We achieved it all, except for two investigators at church. Only one showed up, but it's the first time that an investigator has shown up! So, even though we didn't totally make our goal, we were still really happy!

So, as far as D. goes we did not get to teach her this week because she was gone with work. Hoping we will this week. We have kept in touch with her, though. And we also dropped off a conference talk that we thought would help her.

We've kept in touch with B. also. She says she's been praying and read a little in the Book of Mormon. We brought her by a conference talk as well. So, even though we didn't get to meet with them this week, we are keeping in touch and they are still on the right track.

This week we got two new investigators! Not sure if they are really truly interested, but we shall see! They are two 18 year old girls from English class. They are super cute!  They met with us at the church and we had an intro lesson with them. We introduced the Godhead, the BoM and prayer. We gave them each a Book of Mormon and committed them to start reading and praying about it. They accepted a return appointment. So, I'm hoping things will progress!

As far as Min's grandma goes, there really is something about Sisters connecting better with people sometimes! haha We were talking to Sister Mod about Min's situation and she told us that the elders had always had such a hard time teaching her because the grandma was so rude and would tell them to leave. However, I already told you how she was so excited to let us in and feed us all this stuff and give us hair product. Last night we went to drop off something to Min and the grandma told us to come in and sit down because she wanted to show us pictures. She also wants us to come over for dinner this week. Oh, also, on Saturday Min invited us over to make candy with her and her friends because her grandma was teaching them how. Way fun. We made these coconut cantaloupe candy things. But, the grandma would not let us leave until we had eaten lunch! Then later that day we came back to actually teach Min a lesson. When the grandma saw us she literally went and dragged out a little table, put a red table cloth on it and brought us all this fruit, smoothies, and soup! haha I am so confused, but so pleased that she likes us so much. I think we're going to be able to help Min progress a lot better. We asked her to be baptized and she agreed! Anyway, her Mom works way far away and only comes home once or twice a year, so she wants to wait until her mom comes home in December. So, we probably won't see her baptized, but I'm so glad she has that desire and has that goal now!

This week I think I definitely got food poisoning for the first time! haha On Tuesday I felt so sick all day long and I'm pretty sure it was from whatever we ate the night before at FHE. However, the day that I felt sick was really fun! We had our first district meeting with the new elders and it was great. E. Chelson is way organized and had a lot of great advice/counsel. Afterwards we went out and visited a LA who lives waaaay out. We went with a couple in the ward and their little boy. It felt so nice to just be with a normal little family. The family unit is very weak in Thailand and I cannot really think of any other families I know where there is actually a mom and dad and kids that are all living together and in the gospel. It just felt really nice to be with them. But the lady we visited lives in the most beautiful lush place ever! So gorgeous. But, the greener it gets, the more mosquitoes there are. I attract mosquitoes like no other! So, I was putting all this ointment on my bites so I wouldn’t itch them, then this little dog came over to me and started licking it all off! Ick! haha Dogs and mosquitoes will not leave me alone!

One goal that we have here is to make church a bit more spiritual of an experience. We noticed that people are always late and that causes meetings to start way late. Church is also definitely the social gathering place and sometimes I feel like people forget the real purpose for coming to church. So, last week the branch president had a big meeting and basically talked about needing to come on time, think about the sacrament/ Christ's sacrifice, and being reverent. There was a big difference this week! We try to get there about 30-40 minutes early to welcome people and then Sis. M plays prelude to set the tone for the meeting. I think the talk from the branch president and having music really made a difference because church started 2 minutes early!! What? I have never been to anything in Thailand that has started on time, let alone early!! So excited!!

So, this weekend there is a big conference going on in Roi Et and Khon Kaen because Elder Gerritt W. Gong (first quorum of 70) is coming! Our branch is singing in a little choir for it and they've been going like crazy trying to prepare for it. So, since S. Mullen is the only one that plays the piano well enough, we've had to go to practices to accompany them. They asked me to lead the choir! haha If only I could actually read the song. Actually, I pretty much have it memorized because we've sung it so much. But now I can say that I've lead a Thai choir! Fun!

Turns out we will be having switch-offs this week with Sisters in Galasin (Sister Greenwood!) So, I'm not going to the meeting on Saturday to sing with the choir. But we will go on Sunday!!! I'm way excited to go to Galasin and see Sister Greenwood!! Yay!

On Thursday was Sister Wright's birthday. So, we made her some little treats and took them over to her with the Elders. She is so funny! She took a bite of the brownie and then danced around and made us each take a bite. Then she made the elders do the hokey pokey for her. Love it!

We also met with Sister Joy. She's so cute and so excited about coming back to church. When I called her to see if we could meet she said, "Yes! Let's meet at 12 and eat som tam and then have the lesson!"  So, we had  som tam, fish, brownies, and then a lesson on the restoration. I just love meeting with her.

Oh, the other day we went to visit another less active sister. Her husband was there and he really likes it when we come over because he likes to speak English with us. Anyway, he was playing some John Denver and would get so excited if we knew the song. When "Country Road" started playing I sang along with it and he was way happy! haha The song kind of made me homesick, though.

So, yesterday when we were coming back from teaching we were stopped at a stoplight and this man walked up to Sister Mullen and wanted to shake her hand. Warning for anyone coming to Thailand: if someone wants to shake your hand beware. That is very abnormal because everyone always just "ways." Anyway, she shook his hand and then he planted a huge kiss on her hand. I have never seen such quick reflexes from anyone. She yanked her hand away and then luckily the light turned green right then and we rode away! So funny and unexpected.

Oh, this story is really funny. Sometimes missionaries go a little far to make their goals. Yesterday the elders were sitting waiting for church to start and they realized that only one of their investigators was going to come to church. To get their balanced key indicators they needed one more person at church. So, they left and flagged down a tuk tuk driver and just told him to go wherever. After they'd been driving for a few minutes they saw this garbage lady off the side of the road and told the tuk tuk driver to stop. They hopped out of the tuk tuk and ran over to the lady and told her that she needed to go to church! haha This poor random woman was probably so confused. Anyway, I’m not sure what they said, but they somehow convinced her to hop in the tuk tuk with them and go to church. Apparently she would only speak Esan with them so they couldn't communicate real well. haha It just made me laugh that they literally dragged this lady off the street to come to church.

Those are the highlights of the week.

Good luck with the first day of school and seminary! Can't wait to hear about it all!

Thanks for being the most amazing wonderful family in the world!

I love you!


Monday, August 19, 2013

A great week

Hello Hello!

Daniel, did those little cracker things taste good? We gave them to our English students as little prizes. Guess what?? Yesterday I was sitting outside of 7/11 and an elephant walked down the street! Soooo awesome!

Mom, I'm glad you liked the som tam! We just had it two days ago with our new elders. And, of course, every Sunday the members make it. There's a papaya version, a cucumber version, and a Lao version that is super fishy. Love it! Did it come with sticky rice? That's what they always eat it with here.

On Saturday we were at the church so Sis. M could help the ward members practice a musical number for a conference. I was sitting in the back eating a See's sucker and a member came up to me and asked me if I like chocolate. I said, "Yes!!" The next day she showed up at church with an armload of little chocolate candies for me and Sister Mullen! Thank you Sister ChuanPhid! So sweet. She seriously brings us food every Sunday and whenever we visit her she wants to take us to eat. She takes us to get smoothies often. So cute! She's the lady that got baptized by the elders my first Sunday here. She's a very classy lady and a little sassy! haha I just love her. She's the one that I said was my Thai grandma.

So, Sister M and I did not get transferred. I'm really glad, I wanted to stay here longer. But, both of our elders were whitewashed out. E. Beuhner went to Chiang Mai!!!! And Elder Attasit went somewhere in BKK! Way cool! Our new elders are Elder Chelson (he's been out over a year) and Elder Chambers (he came in with S. M's group). They're going to be great! They didn't get here until Saturday, though, because E. Chambers was sick with something in the hospital, and E. Chelson was singing with "Beyond 5."

But... drumroll... this was a breakthrough week!!! Thank you so much for your fasting and prayers. I think they made a big difference! We decided that we wanted to fast, as well, for our investigators. On Wednesday we broke our fast and decided to drop by an investigator's shop. Her name is Sister D. She had a baptismal date from the previous elders but didn't make it because she would never have time to meet with us because she was traveling a lot and having family issues. Eventually, we were hardly even able to get her to answer her phone. So, we decided it was time something changed with her and we just stopped by her house. We were kind of nervous and hoped she'd take it okay. She was totally welcoming and invited us in. She told us that she missed us and just that morning she'd been thinking about calling us. I felt like she really was sincere about what she was saying. Anyway, she still has the desire to be baptized and she wants to get baptized next month! We're going to try to do all we can to get her ready before the end of this month, though! We'll see. It'll be pretty hard because she can't meet often, but we are going to really, really try! I was so encouraged and so beyond happy!!!

But then it got even better! We've been teaching a 28 year old girl. She had not been progressing hardly at all until about two weeks ago when she had a great spiritual experience with prayer. She also has finally started reading the BoM assignments we've given her. Anyway, this was my turn to lead the lesson and we decided to finally extend the baptismal commitment to her. To be honest I was expecting her to reject it. But she said YES!!!! Oh my goodness I am sooooooo happy! She said she would if she was ready by then (we gave her a date for the 15thof next month). We assured her she'd be ready and we'd be here to help her along the way. I am just so happy that she has this goal now and I hope that things progress in the right direction!

Also, here is a great example of the importance of members in missionary work (what the apostles taught at the broadcast is very true!!) We have an investigator that has the desire to go to church and probably be baptized, but her grandma won't allow it. In fact last week she had to cancel her appointment with us because her gma wouldn't let us come over. So, we found out from a church member that the grandma is good friends with another member, Sister Yuen. Sister Yuen agreed to come with us to help us get into this girl's house and keep the grandma happy/occupied. Well, that was the most effective thing I've ever experienced. Normally the grandma is very grumpy and just glares. She doesn't even say hello. With the member there she was a completely different person! She came over to us and each gave us a flower for our hair. Then she brought us some fish concoction she'd made and told us how healthy it was. Then she brought us fruit and then she brought us this pumpkin coconut dessert thing she'd made (which was wayyy good by the way). She then brought us this shampoo/conditioner stuff that she makes from these fruits that are sort of like limes and gave us a bottle. Holy Cow! Where did all this generosity and kindness come from?? haha I told her that she knows how to do everything and she laughed and seemed really pleased! I also told her that her coconut pumpkin stuff was the tastiest thing I'd ever eaten (may be true) and she gave me some to take home! So, this to me proved the importance of having members come to lessons! 

So, those were definitely the most exciting things this week. But, there are just some little other things that happened that I'll share, too.

A couple of nights ago we were trying to decide where to go. Neither of us really knew. Sarakham is small and there are only so many places to go. So, we prayed about it and then I started biking down a road. So, when Sister Stevenson leads inviting we end up getting chased by a pack of angry dogs, through a small herd of cows until we reach a power plant where nobody lives. When Sister Mullen takes over and leads we end up at the bus station and have nine small lessons with random people waiting to go to their destinations. Good thing I'm not training! haha Way funny. You should look up "Thai cows" or something... they are very different from cows in America! 

A couple days ago we went to Swensen's to get some ice cream and fill out our correlation sheet for Sunday. Another falang came in and sat a table away from us. We started chatting and turns out he's from England. His name is James and he teaches English somewhere. He was way nice and we invited him to church. Not sure if he'll come, but we have his number and I feel like he'd be open to learning with us. AND it would be in English! He lives out by the monkey farm and he said if we ever go we should call him and he'll come with us and bring his girlfriend.

The other day we were inviting around this little shopping complex. Around 8:30 we went back to our bikes to head on home. I got on my bike and started riding, but I could not for the life of me ride straight and finally I tipped over... I was so confused and I think the people on the sidewalk were a little disturbed and amused! haha  Anyway, my front tire had gotten punctured somehow and it was completely deflated!  So, we had to take a tuktuk home... 80฿ out the window. But I got it fixed the next day and it's totally fine.

When we picked up the Elders we went and got som tam with them and Sister Nok. Elder Chelson asked about school, etc... I told him I'd been at the Y for three years. He was way excited to get an update on the football team... haha. Wishful thinking on his part! I told him they did well last season. I actually have no idea and that doesn't tell him much anyway. Then he asked about Riley Neilson. I knew something happened with him last season but I could not remember what! I was like, "yeah... I heard his name a lot... I think he did really well, but got hurt or something..." And then Elder Chelson said that I'm apparently not the person to ask! haha Wish Grandma Lynn had been there to set him straight on BYU football!

Two nights ago we were in line at a grocery store and two Indian men started talking to me. I started chatting a little bit in Thai to them, but then they asked if I spoke English. Yes, I do! But after talking for a few minutes I realized it would have been much easier to speak to them in Thai! I have never heard such a thick accent in my life. I seriously probably understood 3 words of what they said. But, we invited them to church and they were nice about it. He kept asking me "what percent of Thai do you know?" How are you supposed to quantify that? um... 2%? haha  Sister Mullen said I knew 50%, so that was nice of her and they were impressed! If only that were true!

Last night when we went inviting we decided to just go sit on the curb and see who came by and try to talk to them. So, within just a few minutes a guy walked by. He kind of looked at us, so I said hello and then he came over. Sometimes I think people really want to talk to falangs but are too scared to. So, with a bit of an invitation they totally jump on it. He came over and plopped himself down beside us and talked for at least a half-hour. He showed us pictures of his family... and his car! But, he actually seemed maybe a little interested. We told him about what we teach, invited him to church, gave him a pamphlet on how to pray, etc... and he invited us to come visit him. So, I think in the next little while we're going to go out to his house and hold a family home evening for his family.

I've been trying to think of some cultural things to share... I wish I would have written down things that really stood out to me at first because it’s all starting to seem normal now.
But here are a few things: 
People answer their phones no matter what is going on. In the middle of church, in the middle of a conversation, someone's giving a spiritual thought... doesn't matter, they will answer their phones.
Never point your feet toward anyone or do any task with your feet... very disrespectful.
People take off their shoes to enter homes, small buildings/shops, and the church.

Instead of napkins, homes and restaurants will have a little toilet paper dispenser thing. haha
People eat with a fork and a spoon. I have yet to see a butter knife. If you're right handed you hold the spoon with your left hand and the fork with your right and use the fork to scoop food onto the spoon. Interesting. I like it! You should all try eating Thai style next meal.
People do not deal well with the rain here... everyone runs for cover because they think they'll get sick. It's like 90 degrees out.
Public toilets are usually pretty awful and you have to buy toilet paper from a machine if you want it!

Anyway, just a few fun things!

Thank you all so much for your love and support. It makes such a difference! I love you all so much!!!!!! Have a fabulous week! Samuel, please don't die at XC! :)


Liz :)

 Last district meeting
 Sis. Nok sweeping up the bat...haha
 Peeling eggs for the branch potluck
Sister ChuaPhid, Elder Chelson, Elder Chambers
 Elephant crossing!
 With Sister Mien...went to see Min with her.
 With a lady at church. She wanted to take a pic with me, including a pic of her son. She likes to try and speak English with us.
 We get soup a lot...yum! It's a really good broth that they put noodles, meat and bean sprouts in. Then add vinegar and sugar. But, mostly I like the bowl!
Okay, this is one of my favorite things here. A wedge of pumpkin with coconut custard stuff in the middle. Must learn how to make this!
 pumpkin coconut concoction from Min's grandma
 How do you like my sabai pants?
 Shampoo from Min's grandma. It's way strong. I used it this morning and all I can smell is lime. Let's hope my hair doesn't fall out! haha
 pretty little street

Monday, August 12, 2013

Market MoTab and mother's day

Hello Wonderful Family!

Thank you all so much for the emails! Wahoo! I just looooove hearing what is going on. Last P-day, just a few hours after I emailed we met up with the elders and they had our mail! Best mail day ever! At night we have an hour before bed to write in our journals, do whatever... I usually will write in my journal and read a letter or two. Love it!

Thank you so much for the celcius/fahrenheit conversion! 86 degrees is not that bad. But I guess it is the cold season... ugh... just imagine when summer hits! Luckily rainy/cold season lasts a long time! I really love the rain storms here. It makes it hard to do much because everyone runs for cover and we can't really proselyte. But, as far as enjoying some nature, it's awesome.

And yes, I’m way excited about Oct 31st finishing date. I hope it doesn't change, I don't think it will now that this whole 9 week transfer thing is pretty set in stone. And that does mean I'll be in Mahasarakham for another two months, unless President Senior decides to switch things up, which is totally possible. But I have a feeling we'll both be here another transfer. I really hope so! I feel like I'm getting comfortable with this area and I just love it here so much. I feel like I’m finally able to speak enough to actually have meaningful conversations with ward members. This last week I really felt like my language understanding and speaking improved. One member asked me how I'm feeling about the language now that my first transfer is over and I said it is going way better. She told me she agrees because she can understand me better! haha So, slow but sure improvements. Yay!

Oh, big exciting news of this week! We had one reactivation!! Her name is Sister J. and she's been a less active for a while. She's probably about 25-30 and is married. When we got to Mahasarakham Sister Nok took us to visit her and we've been continuing to visit her. She's been coming to church almost every week since we've been here, and yesterday she had her interview with the branch president. She's officially been "rescued" and is an active, participating member! She is way full of joy and a joy to be around. So happy for her! Just as exciting as a baptism to me!

Bad news of the week: at the end of last week Sister Mullen started feeling a little sick. We got a thermometer and her temperature was increasing until it hit 102 degrees, and eventually 103! Holy cow! We called Sister Senior and she told us to go to Khon Kaen to the hospital. The Khon Kaen elders met us at the bus station and got a dtukdtuk to take us there. They waited with us there for a few hours as she got blood tests and everything. They were such a big help, so grateful for them. So, turns out Sister Mullen had contracted Dengue fever!  It's pretty bad, and it is the most common really bad illness that missionaries get here. It's from the mosquitoes, so it's not contagious. Usually when people here have Dengue fever they are hospitalized, but the doctor didn't feel that was necessary-- luckily. So, we went back home and she rested. We had to go back to Khon Kaen on Wednesday for another check up. She was doing way better and the doctor felt fine about her recovering. She's totally fine now, but we spent a few days at home so she could rest. Poor thing!! Our elders were great. They taught our English class for us last minute, and they stopped by to see how she was doing. Elder Beuhner also called Sister Nok and asked her to get us food and Snickers. So, for the last week, Sister Nok has been constantly bringing us Snickers! We seriously have like 6 in our fridge right now! We also had multiple ward members call and ask how they could help us. Anyway, Sis Mullen is feeling fine now, and I'm so grateful for all the people who take care of us.

Since Sister Mullen was sleeping and sick for a few days I had complete control of the phone! haha That was fun... I actually understood more than I thought I could. So, good phone practice.

Oh, this was kind of funny. While we were traveling back to Mahasarakham on the bus I was dozing off, but I could hear a group of college students behind me talking about the "falang" (me). Then all of a sudden I felt one of them tap me on the head. I turned around and smiled at them and they all laughed and hopped off the bus! I'm pretty sure they thought I was asleep and were daring each other to touch my head. Funny!

Okay, this was AWESOME!! Two days ago I got a phone call from Suzanne!!! Ahhhhh! I was so excited! We talked for about 10 minutes! I think she was heading back home soon, but she'd been in Chiang Mai. I think she had a great week here in Thailand! It was amazing to hear her voice! She gave me some great advice and totally gave me a huge boost! Love her!

So, this week I bought a guitar! I walked into the only guitar shop I've ever seen here and asked for the cheapest guitar they have. They brought out a sky blue guitar for 1300 Bhat. Done. The owners were excited that a falang bought from their shop and they had me and Sis M pose with the guitar so that they could take a picture for their facebook page. haha I really wish I could tell you what the page is, but it's in Thai.

So, with my fine new guitar we went to market that night. We borrowed a folding table and set up our pamphlets, flyers, copies of The Book of Mormon, etc... I started playing hymns and Sister Mullen sang them (I don't have the words for any hymns memorized in Thai, so I just kind of hummed along). But then, one of the people in charge of the market came over and handed her a microphone. haha I think she was a little mortified because it connects to loudspeakers that broadcast to the entire market! But it was fun! It was not the most successful idea, but I think we're on to something here! The guy also said we could bring music to play over the loudspeakers. A little Friday night market MoTab anyone? haha Way fun!

Today is Mother's Day in Thailand. So, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to Mom, Grandma, Grandma, and all my other mothers! I love you all so much! In celebration of Mother's Day the branch had a big program. It was really really cool! The Young Women did a traditional Thai dance with traditional costumes. There were a few speakers and musical numbers, and then they all "way"ed their mothers. I love this tradition. They had all the mothers sit in front of the room, and then all their children come kneel in front of them and pin flowers to their shirts. Then the mothers give little blessings to their children. It was so sweet! I went and "way"ed Sister ChuanPhid! She got baptized my first Sunday here and is kind of my Thai Grandma! So much fun! And of course, it would not be Thailand if they didn't have enough food to feed five armies. We had some really good soup and sweets afterwards! Super fun event!

A few days before the Mother's Day program we went over to the church so that Sis Mullen could accompany the YW as they were practicing a song for the program. We turned on the AC and a bat flew out of the vent and started circling the room! All the girls started screaming and we all ran for cover! It was super funny. The branch president had to come and get it somehow.

Another fun thing here- I know you already know this, but everyone goes by their nicknames. Real names seem to only be for formal things. So, it's always fun to ask people what their nicknames mean. Every once in a while people have crazy nicknames that are English words, like Omelette, Salad, and Sandwich!

Yesterday we went out to Sister Jiam's house to visit her. She's the lady that we sing to every day. She is not doing well and is not expected to live much longer. Her cancer is really bad and she's in a lot of pain. I feel so sad for her. However, she has the most positive attitude and biggest smile always. We missionaries went with about 40 ward members to her little house and spent some time with her. Sister Mullen and I sang her "I am a Child of God" and then the youth all "way"ed her for Mother's Day, and then they sang her a Thai Mother's Day song. It was so special to be out there with her. I was so sad to see her in such bad condition but I really felt the Spirit as pretty much the whole branch was together there to support her. I just love how the gospel and this church binds people together. I also love the knowledge of the Plan of Happiness and that we can all be together forever. This life is just a short time but we have eternity together! What amazing news! 

Last night was one of the YW's 18th birthday, so we went to Sister Wright's house for a dinner and surprise party for her. It was way fun! I had some really good chats with ward members and I understood a lot.Yay! One lady in the ward learned how to make brownies and lemon bars from a previous elder and she makes them for EVERY event that the ward has. Fine by me! Lemon bars always make me think of Mom.

So, as far as teaching this week goes, not the best. Every appointment we had fell through. Sometimes I get a little frustrated because we have these lessons prepared and I feel like our investigators might be making progress. Then the appointments end up falling through for silly reasons. I just feel like we are not teaching well enough for them to feel the spirit enough that they want to make the time for us. I don't know, there's a lot to learn and I just wish we could get in more lessons and that people would actually meet with us when they agree to. It's okay, though, I know we'll be able to meet with them, it just might be at a slower pace than I'd like.

This week I was reading in the Conference Ensign and I loved President Uchtdorf's talk "Your Wonderful Journey Home." He asks us what are we doing on our journey, and are we where we want to be? He explains that we have maps on this journey of life to help us and they are the scriptures, words of the prophets, and revelation through the Holy Ghost. I love that we have this guidance in our life and that we have purpose and direction. What a blessing.

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! Thank you for your love and support and happiness! Have a wonderful week!