Monday, August 25, 2014

Changes and Changs (elephants)

Hello family and friends!

This was a really great week. Lots of travel, it's all kind of a blur. Basically, we headed down to Bangkok on Wednesday night and got there around 6:00am on Thursday morning to drop off Sister Tilley. Sad to say good bye to her, she's one awesome missionary and I am so happy we got to spend a couple of weeks together! Anyway, we had to run a few errands in BKK to get her ready to leave, so that took up most of Thursday. However, I became the new Sister Training Leader, so we had to stay for Friday as well to go to Missionary Leadership Council. We stayed the night at the Asoke Sisters' house and it was soooo much fun! There are the DinDaeng Sisters (Sister Jackson and Sister Pitts) and the International sisters (Sister Ing and Sister Peterson!). It was SO awesome to catch up with Sister Peterson. I have really missed her. Also, in the middle of the night Sister DuPlessis and Sister Eve  showed up. So fun to see them! Miss them all. Sister Hughes and Sister Speas are now STL's in Udon and we all went out to Sizzlers and Coldstone together! It was a really fun reunion.

Anyway, Friday morning we had MLC and the Meekers prepared a delicious pancake breakfast for us all. They are the sweetest! So full of energy and always serving others. Normally MLC happens at the beginning of every month, but there was a special meeting this week in preparation for the visit of Elder Allen, who is over the mission department. He's coming in two weeks, which is when we'll go to BKK again for another MLC. This time we received training from President and he talked about how we can unite the mission a little better and remember to have balance in all we do.  
President also discussed other reminders to pass along to the zones. So, it was a really great meeting to prepare us all for when E. Allen comes. He's coming to MLC, and will go out teaching and inviting with some missionaries in Bangkok. I'm excited to see what we learn from him!
It was a really fun, and really tiring three days of travel and no sleep! haha Today is going to be a relaxing P-day! But I just loved meeting with Elders and Sisters from around the mission. Such a boost!

Back in Chiang Mai we have been really, really blessed! We weren't here for a good chunk of the week, but God blessed us for it!

We have one investigator that is on mark to be baptized this coming Sunday. She is about 20, studying at the university. She has a pretty awesome story. So, a long time ago she ran into some missionaries and she was not at all interested. However, she kept the pass-along card that they gave her. A few weeks ago she was at school and a Christian lady came and prayed with them in one of her classes. She said she felt different and she felt good and she wanted to learn more about what she felt. So, she remembered the elders that she had once met, and decided to come to church. So, last Sunday she came for the first time and we got to teach her multiple times this week. She is so prepared and so sincere in learning. She has so many awesome questions and she is so willing to keep the commandments. One of my favorite moments was when we were watching the Restoration video and at the First Vision she gasped and told us she had goose bumps! She's so solid and she loves being at the church. She's made a lot of friends and is so willing to meet with us. We'll be teaching her tonight. I love this girl and am so grateful for the elders that gave her that pass-along card so long ago and that she acted on her feelings to come to church. What a miracle!

Also, we had 5 investigators that came to church on Sunday! All of them have the goal to be baptized, but there's going to be a lot of logistical things to work out. So, we're praying and working for miracles. We just feel extra blessed and excited!

Oh, this was really fun: So, last week we were talking with the zone leaders about how we can give a little boost to the zone. Elder Omer had a great idea of coming up with a motivational video to the Alex Boye rendition of "Have I Done Any Good?" So, we took videos of our companionships working and Sister Bentley compiled them into a movie for the zone. It turned out way cute!  Anyway, that was super fun, and I was blown away at how fast Sis. Bentley whipped out that video. She's never made videos before and it’s done so well. Skill. 

Anyway, those are the highlights of the week. It's all kind of a blur, but it was such a good week. I love Sister Bentley so much. She is such an amazing missionary and we have so much fun together. I'm learning a lot from her. I love Chiang Mai. I love the members. I love this Gospel and I LOVE sharing it!

I hope you all have a wonderful, amazing week!


Sister Stevenson 

 Elephant sabai pants!

 Found a friend!

Elephant painted that! 
This place is called Maesa Elephant Camp and it's famous for its elephant paintings.
 Great Wall of Chiang Mai!
District at the Ure's

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Headin' for the Hills!

Hello family and friends!

So, I'll answer Mom's questions from the email first.

Sister Tilley leaves home on Thursday, so we'll probably have to head down on Wednesday night. We usually just do the overnight bus or train. And yes, it's definitely a long ride. To MahaSarakham and KhonKaen it was only like 5-7 hours. This ride is about 12-14 depending on the mode of transportation. We're always so tired, but it's always a really fun adventure!

So, Chiang Mai is the head of the zone (this is where the zone leaders are), so it's called the Chiang Mai Zone. In Chiang Mai our district consists of the zone leaders, the district leader and his comp, another set of elders (one is being trained) and us sisters. But the Chiang Mai zone covers Lampang, Chiang Rai, Pitsonulog, and Gamphengphet. Way fun!

And I LOVE being in a trio. I was interested to see what it would be like and I absolutely love it! It is probably the most continuous fun I have had on my mission, and it's because Sister Tilley and Sister Bentley are just awesome. They work so hard, get things done, and have fun. I feel like we're laughing all the time.

Okay, so this week was great! 

Last Monday we went to the Hill Tribe up on the mountain, as well as a wat (temple) up there. It was absolutely beautiful. It is so lush and the mountain overlooks Chiang Mai. We got to dress up and take pictures and walk around some pretty gardens. Way fun! 

On Tuesday we had a really great district meeting. Elder Bartholomew is a great district leader and had a very organized and well thought out lesson. He focused on skills for teaching first lessons with investigators and really stressed doing the church tour. It's a lot of fun, it's what we normally do, but he added in an element. So normally with a church tour we take them to the sacrament meeting room, explain what happens there and sometimes we teach a principle or commandment there, then we head to the baptismal font and explain baptism and ask them to be baptized. Well, E. Bartholomew asked us to then take our investigator to a picture of the temple on the wall and help them understand that that is really the end goal. And we've done it a few times with new investigators. I really like it!

One of our new investigators is named L. He came to church last week for the first time. He is Gariang, which is the Hill Tribe here. They have their own language and I literally cannot understand it. I can understand Esan okay and even speak a little bit of it. This is completely foreign. Of course, he also speaks Thai, but it's not his native language. So, we had a member in the first branch presidency who is also Gariang come help us teach him so that he for sure understood what we were teaching. It really helped. L was already Christian and has been baptized into another church (in fact, his name means "frankincense") and he is really worried about being baptized a second time. Right now he's praying to receive an answer about Joseph Smith and the restoration. So, excited to help him keep progressing!

On Thursday night we went and did a switch-off with the Lampang sisters! (Lampang is about a
1.5 hour bus ride from Chiang Mai) It was so much fun! All three of us went to Lampang. Sister Tilley and I went with Sister Maughan, and Sister Bentley went with Sister Black. Those two are just so cute! It was really fun to spend the day with Sister Maughan because I have never really gotten to know her that well. She is just so cute and I had a lot of fun.

One huge miracle that happened while we were in Lampang. So, a few days before Sister Tilley had contacted into a guy named S. He happened to be going to Lampang the same day as us, so we set up an appointment to teach him there. Well, this is probably the most prepared investigator I have ever met. He wants to be baptized so badly. He already keeps all the commandments, and before we even introduced them he told us he just felt like there must be rules to follow before baptism and then he asked what they are. Anyway, it was really cool to see! Unfortunately, that very day he was moving down to Asoke for work, so we won't get to teach him anymore. But, Sister Jackson just got a really awesome new dater! Wahoo!

Yesterday at church we had a few new investigators come! Yay! One lady is named Ch. She's in her 50's studying Burmese. She was on her lunch break and dropped in at church. We gave her a tour and then she went to the first part of sacrament meeting! Hopefully she'll be free to meet again soon. 
 Another girl named B came, too. She's interested in Christianity and so she came to our church. We taught her and she's excited to be learning! She wants to be baptized once she receives a confirmation of the truth. 
Also, we had a mother/daughter duo that came to church a few days ago that want to be baptized, but want to take some time to study first (of course). So, we're really seeing a lot of blessings here and we are very happy! I'll keep you updated on their progress!

Okay, so every Saturday the Sister Training Leader has a meeting with the zone leaders. So, we met and we were trying to come up with something fun to motivate the zone. I can't even totally describe what happened, but Sister Tilley was trying to explain some idea she had and asked us all to close our eyes and picture it. Well, Sis. Bentley and I did not close our eyes, but Elders Quinn and Omer did. They were really tentative about it, though, because they would keep peeking at each other to see if the other had their eyes opened or closed, but at different times. Well, we lost it and so did the Elders and we pretty much just sat there and laughed to the point of tears for like 10 minutes. We left the meeting not really sure what happened, but it was so funny. Hard to explain in an email. However, we did have a bit of productivity. Elder Omer came up with the idea to make a video of us doing missionary work, service, etc. to the Alex Boye version of "Have I done any good?" So, we've been working on that and we'll be compiling it today! Fun!

Yesterday at church was kind of fun because we had a ton of tourists from Utah!

Anyway, those are some of the main events of this week. It's going so great! I just love it here so much. I love this gospel and I love sharing it! It truly transforms people's lives. I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!!!

I love you all so much!

Sister Stevenson 

 On our way to the Hill Tribe
 Sisters Bentley, Ure and Tilley

 Chiang Mai
 Wat Doi Suthep

 Hill Tribe
 Here we go!

 View from the Hill Tribe. Beautiful!

 Later we went to the fish spa!
 Swensen's Ice Cream
 Spinning silk
 Happy one year mark, Sister Bentley!
 Went to a falang restaurant called Butter is Better.
 Inside our house
Thai money

Monday, August 11, 2014

miracles, a new member, and a little mayhem

Helloooo familia!

So, you got the news! I am in Chiang Mai and I LOVE it here! I am in a trio with Sister Tilley and Sister Bentley. These two are absolutely amazing and I love them to death! Can you tell how excited I am? I don't even know where to start this email! 

Okay, so much happened this week and I don't have a ton of time, so I'll recount the main events. (Today we're going up into the hill tribe village to dress up! Finally happening!!)

Thursday was transfer meeting. And it was definitely an exciting one because the huge, awesome group of sisters was leaving. They all looked so great and we're sure going to miss them. Sister Mullen just looks so amazing. I love her so much! And everyone! Also, there were 8 new sisters and 6 new elders that came in! Most of the group that came in after me is training. Sister Narayanan's training and she's got the cutest sister.

Anyway, I got called to Chiang Mai with S. Tilley and Bentley. Sister Tilley is actually going home in less than two weeks to start up her nursing program, so we're going to really miss her and only be a trio for a little while longer. So fun to finally be companions with S. Tilley. Just the best! And Sister Bentley came into the MTC only 6 weeks after me, so we're basically the same age in the mission. She is from Utah and is just so cute! She is really talented musically, and she's also a seamstress! She goes to the U. Love these two girls so much! It's amazing working with people like them. These two are motivated, happy, fun, and work hard. So, I could not be happier or more excited!
Okay, so Chiang Mai is an awesome city! It is so clean and well kept up. There are a million tourists, and so many fun shops and markets and restaurants. It has a totally different feel than anywhere I've been before. It actually kind of reminds me Whitefish because it has mountains, it's super touristy and a little trendy. Sooooo cute! Also, there is a brick wall surrounding the original city with a moat as well. So sweet. I have pictures to show! Basically, this is the most awesome place ever! Another fun thing is that all of the Montanans in this mission are in our zone: Elder Quinn is zone leader here in Chiang Mai and Sister Maughn is in Lampang! So fun! And yesterday a random guy from Missoula came to church (not a member). We decided this must be the highest  concentration of Montanans in the world outside of Montana. haha The other zone leader is Elder Omer. The district leader is Elder Bartholomew and his comp is Elder Kline. They also opened up a new elder area and Elder Sukhan is training Elder Luker. It's another big district and I love it. Way impressed with them all! Great bunch of elders!

On Saturday our investigator, Brother Oat, was baptized! This guy is 29 years old and was found while Sister Bentley and Tilley were out street contacting a few weeks back.This made me laugh: the day before the baptism we were asking him what songs he wanted sung at his baptism. He didn't really know, so we got out the hymn book and sang some hymns for him. Every song we sang he rejected and did not like. haha Finally he flipped through the book and asked us to sing "Angels We Have Heard on High." Made the baptism! 

Oh, we have a SENIOR COUPLE here! I have wanted to serve in an area with a senior couple my entire mission and it finally happened. They are the Ures and they come from Provo. They are just the cutest. They are super fit and energetic and involved! We asked Elder Ure to baptize Brother Oat and he was just sooooo excited and ready to serve. The moment we asked him to baptize him he went and found Brother Oat so they could go practice. Cutest thing EVER!!

Okay, so, I will recount Saturday: one of the craziest, funniest, most embarrassing days of my life. So, Saturday at 5:00pm was the day of the baptism. In the morning we had a whole bunch of appointments and in the afternoon we went inviting. We got a little caught up in our inviting and lost track of time, and then had to book it back to the church on our bikes. We got there about 15 minutes before the baptism was supposed to start. When we got there Oat was still not there, but he showed up right in time. Well, we were about to start the baptism when one of the elders asked us if we'd turned off the font. Ummmm..... NO!  We hadn't even turned it ON!!! So, we dashed to the font, turned it on, and then hooked up a whole bunch of hoses from outside to it as well and then prayed for a miracle. The baptismal service started and we were all praying like crazy for the font to fill. Sister Bentley said she was sitting there the whole time telling God, "You made a few loaves and fishes turn into enough to feed thousands, you can fill this font!" haha Well, about a half hour later the songs and talks were over, and we nervously made our way to the font. To our great relief and gratitude the font was more than full, it was almost overflowing! It normally takes much longer than that just to fill it enough to immerse a person. We took that as our first miracle together here and we are so grateful for it! Anyway, the baptism went flawlessly and afterwards Brother Oat shared the sweetest testimony. In it he thanked Elder Ure multiple times for baptizing him and for the opportunity to be a member of the church. It was a beautiful baptism!

So, we thought that was the end of our crazy day, but I think that was only the beginning because right after the baptism there was a wedding reception taking place in the cultural hall that we were asked to help with. The day before, a member who plays the piano, asked us to do a musical number for it with him. He played the piano, Sister Bentley played the flute, and Sister Tilley and I sang. The song was "Where Love Is" from the Children's Songbook. That used to be one of my favorite primary songs, but I'm pretty sure we ruined the wedding with it. The keyboard that the member was playing on was pretty messed up. Whenever he tapped a note it would play the note twice. This totally threw him off, and he didn't really play any of the notes right, which made the flute sound way off, and our singing as well.

Well, this is someone's wedding, and keeping composure would be a nice thing to do. But, it sounded so awful that I lost it. I could not sing because I was shaking so hard trying not to laugh. Poor Sister Tilley had to sing a solo and I looked like a fool! Anyway, I eventually got a hold of myself and we finished the song out. At the end everyone just looked a little amused and disturbed. I was a little ashamed, but it was so funny I laugh every time I think about it. Anyway, pretty sure they won't ask us to do musical numbers anymore. After that they asked Sister Bentley to translate everything that was being said (it was a Thai woman marrying an English man). She did a way good job. It's so hard to translate, especially in front of everybody. She's awesome! 
So, after that we hit the road and got a pretty good laugh out of it all. Crazy, awesome day!

In Chiang Mai there are two branches, one at 9:00am and one at 1:00pm. We are in the 1:00 branch. So that's a change! And I think it will be easier to get people to church. It's kind of nice because people have two options.... if they can't go at 1:00 they can go at 9:00. Sweet! On Sunday there were four confirmations! It was also Branch conference and the district presidency gave a really great lesson on personal consecration. That night we had a pancake and waffle dinner at the Ure's! I love them! They are the cutest! I miss Grandma and Grandpa and Grandma so much and I finally have some grandparents here!

So, basically, I love it here and am so excited to be working with Sis. Tilley and Bentley. They are amazing missionaries and people. Work way hard and are so considerate. We also do P90X every morning and yoga at the end of the day. Way fun! 

This is going to be an awesome transfer!

Have a great week!

Sister Stevenson :)

Goodbye Sisters!
 Night train to Chiang Mai

 Leaving the train station to find our house
 Lunch with Elder Luker and Elder Sukhan
 close to the church
 Brick wall around the city

 Entering the city
 Our street! Notice the mountain in the background :)
 Our house
Companions Sister Bentley and Sister Tilley
 The church in Chiang Mai
 View from the Ure's apartment
Dinner at the Ure's

Monday, August 4, 2014

Traffic Patrol Imposters

Hello family! I love you all so much! Thank you so much for your emails and updates!

Well, this was a great week! I feel like we pretty much just street contacted all week long. But I will share some of the highlights. 

So, last Monday was fun because we had a Pioneer Day FHE at the church. I shared from "Our Heritage," Sister Sawangwong made a delicious dinner, and then we played the stick pull game, cats cradle, and other games. Way fun! I love our pioneers and the early saints so much. I remember when I was a kid I thought pioneers were depressing. haha Now, I love them so much and want to learn more about them and honor them. I think our church history trips really gave me a new perspective and love for our amazing history.

On Tuesday we had a really fun English class. I think here in KhonKaen is the most fun I've ever had teaching English. Sister Carter is our English leader and does an awesome job. She has lots of fun ideas and leads the class really well. On Tuesday our class was on manners. So we set a table for all of us missionaries in front of the class. She made it super fancy and nice. We demonstrated poor and good manners for the class and the vocabulary for the dinner table. Basically, taught what is acceptable if they go to a falang country. haha They got a kick out of it.

On Wednesday Sister Carter and I were in charge of leading the Book of Mormon class. Sister Carter had a fun idea to reenact Lehi and Co.'s journey across the sea to the Promised Land. We acted it out. Elder Lingard was Nephi and we were the rest of the cast. It was fun! There were only 4 people at the class this week (not really sure where everyone went) but they seemed to really like it.

On Thursday we were out inviting and we got stuck in a huge rainstorm. We were getting pretty soaked, so we decided to find some shelter. We found a little empty traffic patrol booth so we took cover in there. The traffic booths here are kind of funny. Usually it has two connected chairs up on a little platform covered by a small roof in the shape of a helmet. Anyway, I'm not sure if the public is really supposed to sit there, because people kept staring. One lady drove by really slowly so she could take a picture of us, and then another lady was so distracted she drove right over the curb. So, we decided we'd probably better move before we caused an accident, or before a police man came. But, it was fun while it lasted! 

On that same day we had zone training from the zone leaders and the STL's. It was a really great training. President Senior really wants us to make our personal and companionship studies better, as well preach repentance more. We have been working on our studies and it really has been awesome. Feel the Spirit way more! I love it!

So, we have been asked to read one chapter a day in the Book of Mormon with our companion. A couple of days ago Sister Carter and I read Mosiah 4. I just love that chapter so much. It teaches how to repent and many other things. I also really liked two verses, 19 and 21: "For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being,even God, for all 
the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all 
the riches which we have of every kind? And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are
dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask
that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the 
substance that ye have one to another."

I really like these verses. The previous verses talked about how we need to repent and that we need to have the intentions of loving and serving everyone. It's a good reminder to not be selfish or greedy, but willingly love and support those around us. Because, in the end, we are all on the same level and all must depend on God. And going along with that I came across a quote by President Monson that I really like:

"We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, He who sees the larger picture and who knows the end from the beginning, has assured us that He will be there to provide help if we will but ask. We have the promise: 'pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.'" 

So, those are a few things I really liked from my studies this week.

We also spent a good amount of time organizing all of our recent converts from the last full year. We made New and Returning Member Forms for every single one from all of our companionships and put them in the book in order from most recently baptized. We attached a picture with all that we could, and then classified them all according to their activity level and need of attention level. I think it will be really helpful for anyone new coming in. It feels good to have that mostly done.

Oh, Dad! So, Sister Sawangwong is trying to learn the guitar. I was teaching her some chords but then I decided to just go straight to the classics. She can now play and sing "Dead Fish" beautifully! You would be proud if you heard her! Your music has now spanned continents! 

Well, that is about the bulk of the week! It was a great week and we're excited to see what happens with transfers. There are six new elders and eight new sisters entering the mission! Wahoo! We'll probably know today who is moving. Really excited!

I love you all soooo much and hope you have a wonderful week! 


Sister Stevenson