Monday, September 30, 2013

Hold on...It's picturepalooza!

Hello familia!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD! I hope you are having a wonderful fabulous birthday! Your birthday was yesterday here, but today Sis Mullen and I are going to celebrate by going to a really fancy expensive sushi restaurant and then we will bake cookies with the elders. Do not worry- you are being celebrated in Mahasarakham! :) 
This week was kind of crazy but waaay fun! 

Last Monday we played volleyball with the Elders at the church and I was reminded again why I failed all my skills tests in P.E. I have no skills and my arms still hurt from playing. haha But it was fun. The elders didn't ask us to come play with them again so we really must be pretty bad.

So, I was really excited for Tuesday because we had a lot of great visits and appts. planned and English was going to be way fun. However, around 10:00 in the morning we got a call from Sister Pannida saying that I had to leave to Bangkok that day to go renew my visa on Wednesday. What? No warning there. So, Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty much done for because we had to travel to BKK. We actually met up in Korat with Sister Greenwood and Stack and their companions. We greenies (actually... not anymore!!!) went to BKK together and our trainers stayed in Korat because they didn't need to renew their visas. 

We had such a fun time! It's always so fun to catch up and share stories. We caught a bus to Bangkok Tuesday night from Korat and we realized really quickly that we are definitely Esan girls because we really had no clue how to get around Bangkok. We knew where we needed to end up, but as we were driving into the city, I noticed signs for where we were going, but the bus wasn't stopping. So, we told the bus driver where we wanted to go and he laughed because we'd passed it awhile back. So, we pretty much were dropped off on the side of the freeway. Luckily, we were able to find a taxi and we got the address of the sisters' house we were staying at and made it there. Fun times!

Wednesday morning we caught a cab to go renew our visas. We didn't know where the place was so we asked the sisters we stayed with to tell them where to take us. We ended up at the airport. haha So, I told the driver we needed to renew our visas and he laughed and took us to the right place. And it was soooo much fun! Almost my whole MTC zone was there to renew their visas! It was amaaaazing to see them all! And we had a lot of lines and paper work so we got a lot of time to visit. Everyone seems to be doing really well! Except for poor E. Black... he got his appendix out a few weeks ago, but he is recovering well and in good spirits. That was such a huge boost to see everyone! What an awesome day!

Also, that same day they had a mini transfer meeting because the Thai and Lao missionaries came into the country. They are on a different schedule because they go to the Phillippines MTC. So, they had to be placed with companions. There were actually a lot of changes with other missionaries here as well. So, this coming tranfers meeting will be interesting. Can't wait to see what happens!

On Saturday we had our big performance in Khon Kaen! haha They went all out! You'll see in the pictures. When they asked us last week to be in the dance, we were originally going to do a traditional Esan dance called the Red Ant Dance. We must not have done a very good job because Sister M and I got downgraded to the flower girls for a different dance that the YW did. haha We pretty much just came out at the end of the dance and threw flowers all over the place. But we got a big applause! So funny! 

The Elders still did the red ant dance and they were hilarious! I wish I could send video through this email. Super entertaining! 

It was a really fun day and all the branches performed awesome talents, mostly dancing and singing.

Our costumes were way hot, though. We were pretty much wearing 50 blankets over our clothes. I really don't think I've ever sweat so much and we wore them from 8 in the morning until 2 or so in the afternoon. It was really funny because while we were there members from the district kept asking to take pictures with us--probably because I looked so ridiculous. I'm a falang trying to pull off a beautiful Thai costume/hair/dance. Such an awesome experience! Got to see a lot of other missionaries, too! Wahoo!

Okay, get this. I about died!!!! On our way to Khon Kaen, Brother Boy leaned over to me and asked me if I have family in Utah. I told him I do and he asked me if I know Lola Johnson!!! What??? I screamed and said, "YES!! She's my aunt, my grandma's sister!" He said that his friend, Sister Gai, served a mission in the states, married a falang, is living in Utah, and is Lola's visiting teacher now! Oh my goodness! I was so excited to make that connection. And I still can't get over how surprised I was to hear this Thai man in the middle of the Esan talking about Lola! Crazy!

A new investigator accepted the invitation to baptism last week. Things will probably go pretty slow with her because she doesn't remember things well. Yesterday we took Sister Nok with us to go teach. She totally connected with Nok and opened up a lot. Unfortunately they were speaking Esan the whole time... so Sister M and I just kind of sat there and let them talk. haha We'll have to get the whole scoop from Nok.  I think when we visit her, and especially now with Sister Nok, she feels some light and hope. I love this lady so much and I just want her to know that Heavenly Father loves her and that she's important. I know she feels good when we come and I want to help her truly find happiness in the gospel to help her deal with everything going on in her life.

Sister Du is still doing great. She is keeping a scripture study journal and loves having us over. Now, if she would just come to church!!! She is afraid of closing her shop on Sundays because she needs to pay for her daughter to go to college. We're working on helping her realize that she'll be blessed for keeping the sabbath day holy. While we were at her shop she was watching a dragon boat race happening somewhere in Thailand. We got to see a bit of it. Way cool!

A couple of days ago we went to meet a new investigator at her work. She sells food at an elementary school. While we were there we were literally swarmed by a table full of 11 year old girls all super excited to practice their English! Fun! We invited them to all come to English class. Let's hope they come! 

Oh, I have two new nicknames! I'm going to see how many I can get before I end my mission!  Brother Boy nicknamed me "Goy" (means "pinkie finger") and Sis M "Gluay" (means "banana"). Apparently they are famous twins here in Thailand. Then yesterday another less active member named me "Daw" (means "star") and Sister Mullen "Duen" (means "month"). So, I have lots of options here.

This week we had a few investigators tell us that they like brownies. So, we decided to make some for them. Unfortunately the church oven was not working so we tried to bake them in our toaster oven. haha They were pretty much just burned on the outside and underdone on the inside... but they still seemed to like them.
This week we studied Mosiah 18 a lot because we were hoping it would help some of our investigators understand the need for baptism by the proper authority. It makes that need clear, but it also really illustrates the happiness of people who are baptized and follow Christ. I just really liked that chapter this week!

Thank you all for the great emails! I love you all so much! I have a million pictures to sift through so I'd better get started! Have an awesome week! I love you!

Love, Liz

 Missionaries gathering to renew visas
 Trying to duplicate Dad's proselyting picture in Korea
 A member gave this to me...have no clue what you're supposed to do with it.
 A slightly flooded street. We really don't get much flooding in Mahasarakham.
 Some student work at the vocational college.
 Elder Chambers getting his make-up done...not happy! haha
 Preparing for the dance.
 Bus ride to Khon Kaen
 Where's Sister Stevenson?
 Ready to dance
 Our primary performing the tortoise and the hare

 Young Women

 Our grand entrance! Pretty sure I am the worst Thai dancer ever! But it was way fun!

 With Brother Boy!
 With all our branch members
 The Red Ant Dance
 Sister Ud
 Making som tam
 Happy Sunday!
 Found a kitty! I don't really like furry animals, but this one was sooo cute!
 Haha- At Bia's shop.
In Korat

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rain, Red ants, Recharged

Hello wonderful family!

How are you all doing? Sounds like things are going pretty well! 

 This week was great!

Last week we contacted into a lady named Bong. She's probably about 60 and runs a little shop/street restaurant. Anyway, we had a few lessons with her this week. She has been praying and she says that she feels like she's being blessed because of it. We have been teaching her the Restoration, but it's been pretty slow going because she doesn't remember things very well and we have to keep reteaching. Anyway, yesterday we gave her a soft baptismal commitment and she accepted! So happy!

Okay, Sister Du is doing awesome. For our last visit a couple days ago we asked her to read Mosiah 2- about King Benjamin speaking to his people about service and other things. She not only read it, but when a friend of hers stopped by to say hello, she asked her friend to sit down so she could share what she had been reading. She also gave her friend a Book of Mormon and asked her to read it! Sister Du is becoming a missionary herself! Now, if she would just come to church! I think there's a good possibility it may happen soon. She's so enthusiastic about the Book of Mormon. And I think she really likes us and enjoys having us over. I mean, for heaven's sake, she shared her Moon Cake with us and those are no cheap treats!
B. is doing really well! She is so open with us now and it's not awkward visiting her anymore. A couple days ago we taught her the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity. I was a little nervous to teach those because we know she has issues with both. However, she is totally willing to give up coffee and other harmful things to follow the Word of Wisdom. Right as we started to introduce the Law of Chastity her boyfriend walked into her shop and heard the whole lesson. Sort of awkward, but it was probably good for him to sit in on this one, too. B. and her boyfriend live together, but she sincerely wants to work things out because she wants to get baptized! I think the boyfriend is going to make it hard, though. So, we are just going to be as encouraging as possible and pray and fast for her. Saturday night we bought her some bottles of chocolate milk as a (sort of) joke to replace her coffee. We also brought her a study journal to help her remember the things that she likes that she reads. She was excited to start doing that. When we left she told us that she'd see us at church. We were so excited. However, she did not show up! Ahhhh! I think it was because of the rain. There were not a lot of people at church. When it rains, pretty much everything stops here. So weird. President Senior said something along the lines of "when it rains here everyone seems to lose their testimonies and not bother coming to church..." Very true. So... although B. is doing well in many aspects, going to church is crucial if she wants to get baptized. So, we're going to go see her today and figure this all out. But, I am so happy that so many things are going well with her!

Okay, so Thursday we had Zone Conference in Udon!! It was the Udon and Khon Kaen (mine) zones!  It was a wonderful, awesome couple of days there! The plan was to leave Wednesday night and head up to Udon (about 3 1/2 hours north). The Elders said they'd grab bus tickets for us all, and around 12:00 on Wednesday we got a call from them saying that the only  bus leaving to Udon that day was leaving at 12:20! Ahhh! Panic! Luckily we were packed already. But I have never cleaned up and biked faster in my life. Right as we pulled up to the bus station the Udon bus pulled up, too, and we hopped on just in time. Whew! And we were sweaty messes for the rest of the day! haha Once we got to Udon we grabbed something to eat and then went to the church to help set up and for Sister Mullen to practice the piano for the Sisters' musical number. That evening all the Esan sisters (except for Ubon area) stayed at the Udon Sisters' house! Soooooo much fun! There were 6 companionships and I already knew them all. Such a fun reunion! The Udon Sisters had all sorts of snacks and drinks and we spent the evening all catching up and eating! So fun to talk with Sister Narayanan, Stack, Greenwood, and Phelps! They are all so cute and doing well!

Before conference we had a few rotations to go through with the AP's and the Seniors. We all had to write talks and give them to Sister Senior and then she chooses a couple of people to give them in the conference. So, first I gave Sister Senior my talk, then I had to recite the 10 "how to begin teaching bullets" in Thai to one of the AP's (glad I memorized them in time...). Then I got my planner "graded" by another AP (B+ haha... need to write in more back-up plans.). Lastly, I had my interview with President Senior. We talked about how things are going in Mahasarakham, and he asked me to tell him about some of our investigators. That whole morning was great! At 9:00 conference started and lasted until 3:00. We got so much great counsel and advice from the Seniors and the AP's. The theme of the conference was on conversion and miracles produced by faith. I forgot to bring my notes to the internet cafe, so I may have to share what I learned next week. There were some specific things I wanted to share and I can't remember them now. But, it was an awesome conference and really motivating! And, we had a team activity that's too hard to explain. But, my team won, so we all got a 200 Baht gift card to Swensen's! I think we may just go use that today!

 On Friday we had our first official sports day! Because of the rain we had to revise it a bit, but it was way fun. Pretty much all of our English kids showed up and had a great time! We played basketball, 4 square, and some sort of dodge-ball game that kids here play in school. This week we are going to play water-balloon volleyball and they all seemed excited about it! So, sports day started off well. 

The last week has been super rainy. I have never been more wet and muddy in my life! On Friday we had a meeting with the Elders in the evening. We had both been out visiting people and a rain storm hit. Once we all got to the church we were all soaked completely through and dripping all over the place! haha Yesterday before church we rode around to try and get our investigators to church. By the time we'd gone to all their houses and got to the church we were wet and muddy. To be honest, I was not in a good mood. So sick of the rain and mud!!! haha But I got over it fast enough and dried off eventually. As much as I dislike the heat, I almost like it better than being dripping wet!

Also, this is kind of fun... and funny. There is going to be a talent show for the Khon Kaen district members this Saturday in Khon Kaen. The ward members asked us 4 missionaries if we would do a traditional Thai dance for it. Of course we will! Way fun! Not totally sure why they asked the only falangs in Mahasarakham to do their cultural dance, but it will be an awesome experience. We get to dress up in traditional clothing, too! So we had a practice yesterday and the members just kept laughing at us. Especially the Elders! haha They were way funny. None of us are very good at it except Sister Mullen. So, it should definitely be entertaining! The dance is called the "Red Ant Dance" or something like that. See if you can look it up!

I love you and miss you all so much! Thanks for your love and encouragement!


Liz :)

Trying to learn the Red Ant Dance! haha
 On our way to go teach
 This notebook made me laugh!
 Another soaking wet day.
Elders completely soaked.
 Sports day. Giving a spiritual thought at the end and eating goodies.
 For some reason this dog sitting under the pay phone made me laugh.
Business Incubator?
 sports day
I went to run for the ball and slipped on this slime stuff that was all over the ground behind the church. Ick!
 lunch with the elders at KFC
 zone conference and reunion!
 on our way to zone conference
waiting at the bus station ....with packages!

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's the Barnum and BATTY Circus! Get your tickets here!

Hello! Hello!

Mom, when you explained that you saw "Turbo" I kept laughing... a movie about a snail? It sounds so cute. I'll have to see it when I get back because it'll definitely remind me of Thailand. There are snails everywhere!

We haven't gone playing/singing at the market lately because we've had a lot of things on the weekends lately or the rain comes. But, next time we go I’ll try to get someone to take a picture of us!

So, this week. There were a lot of good things that happened and we made almost all of our goals!

We had some great lessons with B. She originally had a baptismal date for the 15th of this month. Well, that didn't happen because she was never free to meet. So, we met with her and showed her a calendar of this month and the next. We told her about how many more lessons we have left to teach and asked her to pick her own date and mark the days that we can meet her. She chose the 6th of October. So, that's good. I think she finally feels really comfortable with us and actually likes it when we come over. When we were leaving she gave us each a hair bow that she had made. She's so sweet! Anyway, Saturday evening we stopped by her store to invite her for the 20th time that week to come to church. She said she would try really, really hard. She asked, "Do I have to wear long skirts like yours?" haha We said to the knees is great, but honestly come however you will. JUST COME TO CHURCH!

We are continuing to meet with Sister Du. She loves reading in the Book of Mormon and I think that our short little visits may be working. She started going on one day about how she really needs to go to church. We hadn't even been talking about church. She said she knows what she needs to do, it's just hard with her work and getting up for church. So, this is a huge step. When we first started coming she didn't seem interested at all and wouldn't even pray. Now she wants to return but is just not sure how she is going to do it. I really believe that the Book of Mormon has power! She's been consistently reading it and I think that it has helped her remember the testimony that she has and her good desires. So, Sister Du is doing well!

Yesterday after church we had a pretty sweet deal. We were going to go out and start visiting a whole bunch of people when Sister Nok and Brother John asked us what we were up to. They offered to drive us around and also gave us a few more people to go visit! So, we spent most of yesterday driving around and visiting less active members! Didn't even get sweaty! haha 

The last person we visited was Brother B. He's been a member for a long time but just doesn't like to wake up early to go to church. So, yesterday we went and visited him with S. Nok and B. John. I gave Bro. B. my bag with the steps/drawings to the plan of salvation (remember making those with me, Mom?) and asked him to put them in order. He did it perfectly and way fast!
 Sis. M asked him if Jesus was going to be at the church building on Sunday would he go to church. He said yes, of course. She asked him how he would get there and he responded that he would ride his motorcycle or he'd find a way (his tire is flat). She then explained that Jesus is at church every Sunday. It's His house and we take the sacrament to remember Him. So, I think he got the point of our visit, and he pinkie promised that he'd go to church. I feel like he will. We shall see! 

Then he gave us these things called sah-lah-bow that his mom makes and sells. They are like buns with either meat or sweet bean stuff inside. They are way good, but I burned my tongue and throat on the first one I ate. Oops... now all I want to eat is jello! Good thing jello is popular and I can get it at 7/11!

This week we had switch-offs with Sister Pannida (Sister Training Leader) and Sister Ladle (came into the MTC the transfer after me). It was way fun, however we did not get the memo that they were both coming and staying in Sarakham. Normally only one companionship is in each area. So... we have no blankets, pillows, mats, or anything... And we also have no space in our little one room apartment. It was way fun, though! We bought some mats and things worked out just fine! I spent the day with Sister Pannida. She is Thai and we pretty much spoke Thai the entire day. It was a huge confidence boost because I understood her really well and could express myself pretty well. Of course, she knows how to speak slowly and clearly so that falangs understand her, but still, I was really happy. I got a lot of good advice and help from her and we had some great visits! Way fun!

This week the lady that we used to sing to, Sister Jiam, passed away. She was such a wonderful person and a great example. The branch members were super close to her and very supportive of her. Very sad that she's gone, but she had been suffering from cancer from a long time and was in a lot of pain. So, I think it was a relief. She died in the middle of the night and Friday morning I got a call from the Elders and a few members asking us to come with them to the hospital. We didn't really know what for, but we met them there at 8:00. Apparently they had asked the Elders to come and give a prayer. So, we went to the room where they keep the deceased and the elders said a prayer over Sister Jiam. It was a little freaky being in that room, but also really nice to see Sister Jiam one last time. The next day we went out to her house with the members for a little memorial that her family had going. We all sang them her favorite hymn (Come, Come ye Saints) and said a prayer. It was nice to show our support to her family who are not members of the church. 

On Tuesday at English class we had another bat. Elder Chelson had just been talking about how bats are the most dangerous animal here because they usually carry rabies and it's a huge pain in the neck if you get bit by one. So, as we were starting our class all of a sudden a bat flew out of the AC. Sister Mullen started running out of the room, but the bat kept swooping down almost running into us and the students. So, I started crawling on the floor to the door yelling for the students to follow us out. When we got out of the room we ran and got the elders to come catch it. But none of the students had left the room and seemed completely not bothered by the bat. haha The elders ran around the room for a few minutes with brooms trying to catch it. They finally trapped it in the curtain and took it outside. When we went back into the room we asked the students whey they didn't leave and if they were scared. They said they didn't care about the bat and I guess it was not scary enough for them to leave. haha So, we missionaries put on a pretty good show freaking out about the bat in the room. I think they were all really entertained!

On that note, though, English is going well. We have about 30 or so people there each week and we are finally at a point where we can split into beginner and advanced. Sis M and I teach the beginner class and the Elders teach the advanced class. The students love missionaries and love talking to us.  One girl really is obsessed with us. Her English is very good and she is always asking to take pictures with us. Another girl has been trying to find us on facebook. haha Love English class!

Sister Mullen is a really good singer, but she always goes around singing off tune just to be funny. So, we both sing songs off tune just enough so that it sounds like we're trying to be serious. We get a good kick out of it. Anyway, a few days ago we decided to record ourselves and leave a nice little album on our phone for the next missionaries that have our phone. It's pretty awful and pretty funny.
I love you all so so so so much! Thank you for your love and encouragement. I hope you have an awesome week. I think of you all the time.


Liz :)