Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Our Week--by Elder Sowards

It was a busy week for us that included our 2nd trip to Ayutthaya. The branch had 2 baptism this Sunday so it was fun to be there. 

One member, a boy in Ayutthaya, broke his leg 2 weeks ago in a motorcycle accident.  After 3 days in the hospital and several pins put in the leg to hold it, he went home. A few days later he fell down and shattered the pins. Back to the hospital again and they pieced it together. We visited him on Sat. night.

We didn't take the moving sweat box (aka train) home from Ayutthaya this time. We rode shuttles both ways. The price difference is $10 by air conditioned shuttle that takes an hour or 67 cents by train that takes 2+ hours in the sauna. We stayed over night at a Thai hotel that was very picturesque. The bed (king size) had a bottom sheet and for top sheets we were given two sheets the size of a beach towel. At least we had hot water in the shower.

We are making progress. The office fixed our apartment hot water heaters in both bathrooms – we finally can take a hot showers.

Joan is working on writing a song on the Book of Mormon – in Thai. It is a challenge for her, impossible for me. It is part of an effort to get the members to read/reread the Book of Mormon by Christmas as a gift to the Savior.

We taught English Tuesday night. We teach an intermediate class of about 20 students. We teach conversational (American) English.

Last of all we bought an iPhone Monday. We have one non-smart phone provided by the mission, but since we may not always be together (couples can split off to do what needs be done) we felt we needed a 2nd phone. Joan will mostly use the iPhone and I get the beast.

 elder sowards

P.S. What apps have you found most valuable for the iPhone?
Pictured l-r: The Goodsons (a senior couple who arrived in Thailand the same time we did) Mission president and wife (the Seniors) and Elder and Sister Sowards.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bangkok Church Office Missionaries and Employees

Brother and Sister Neil (far right, front row) from the Hong Kong Church office, visited Bangkok, and the Norda's (curly blonde on front row and 2nd man to her left wearing blue tie) have finished their mission and returning home. So to mark the event, we all went outside for a picture. Next to the Neils are President Senior and Sister Senior, Thailand Bangkok mission president. Elder and Sister Sowards are top row. We have enjoyed getting to know everyone pictured here. They are beautiful people and valuable in their callings and jobs. All the farangs are full time missionaries. The Thais are church employees. Not everyone who serves/works in the building was available for the picture. This is about 80%.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ayutthaya Baptism

Ayutthaya Branch
Today we had two baptisms in Ayutthaya. The two women dressed in white in the center of the 2nd row from top, holding the flowers, are our newest members. Included are some members of the branch. What a great group of Saints. They are beautiful people. Top row center Elders Trabing,  Engle (in white), a friend who baptized one of the ladies, Elders Chambers and Christiansen. A potluck lunch followed.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

English Class

Last night we had our first experience teaching English. Every Tuesday night at almost every LDS chapel in Thailand, English is taught. Last week we attended as only observers and led a simple game.

Elder Sowards and I taught the intermediate class of about 20 students. There is also a beginning class and an advanced class of the same number. All ages attend. Outside the fence surrounding the chapel is a banner announcing free English classes.

Some students in attendance were Wee, Um, Bee, Nich, Or, Bun--to mention a few. All had had some English in school. Our lessons focus on conversational English. We taught how to make the sound of "th"--which they don't have in Thai. "Stick out your tongue," I'd say. Most did very well. We also went over a, an, and the. The focus of the lesson was "emotions." We showed "After Today Live" and asked them to list all the emotions portrayed in the short film. Fun.

I love their smiles and how they giggle when I try to speak Thai. We are both learning.

Next week's lesson: Body Parts. :-) 

The Ayutthaya Branch

by Elder Sowards

This past Sunday we went to Ayutthayaa-- (highlighted in white above Bangkok)-- our assigned branch about 60 miles away.  We went by taxi, shuttle, and then tuk tuk (small truck taxi). We left at 7 AM and arrived at 9:02 AM (two minutes late).  The meeting speakers consisted of 2 families who just returned from the Hong Kong Temple (1st time), testimonies by Joan and I, and 3 newly assigned young missionaries. The high council speaker took the remaining time. Joan did real well bearing her testimony in Thai. The members there were about 40 in attendance. We received a very warm welcome, and we felt their sincere appreciation.

They made the announcement we will have an apostle and a member of the 70's quorum presidency come to Thailand on May 18-19. What a great opportunity. 

The adult Sunday School lesson was on the law of concentration – I could not understand many of the words. (We never taught the law as missionaries.)  I did better in the Elders quorum lesson.

After church they had a potluck lunch. They do this every week as many people only see each other once a week, some live 30 –50 miles away. Part of the food Joan put on her plate turned out to be a well cooked chicken foot. She didn't eat it, but offered it to an elder, and he happily popped it into his mouth.  

After church we decided to take the train back to Bangkok. This was nothing like the train we rode when the family was here in 2000. This one had no a/c in the station waiting area where we waited and hour and a half, or on the train. It was probably 99˚F and 100% humid – very hot. It took 2 plus hours to get back to Bangkok. But the ride only cost 20 Baht or about 66 cents per person. I am sure we got our money's worth in sweating off pounds.

We will attend the Ayutthaya Branch every Sunday, but it is hard I think to just serve there on Sunday. They have offered to let me drive the mission van. I probably will try, but driving in Bangkok is like driving in the worst city in the US on super steroids. 
I may not survive!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dinner Tonight

Tonight we held a pot roast dinner with Elder and Sister Marvel for our zone leaders and office elders. The Marvels are Perpetual Education fund and ERC. Esther (sitting between them) is from the Congo, Africa and will be baptized this coming week. She is an amazing girl studying engineering here in Bangkok.
Pictured is Brother Ronny, Elders Mateos, Heap, Appleyard, Wilamas, Gibbons, Elder Sowards. 
Sitting Elder Segura, Elder Marvel, Esther, Sister Manning.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Our First Week in Bangkok

by Elder Sowards

We lived from Sunday to Friday in The Unico Premier Metrolink Hotel next door to the Church office building. On Friday, we received our assignment to stay in Bangkok and help promote some of the missionary programs being instigated here, so we moved into an apartment. It is a spacious place with 2 large bedrooms, a beautiful wood floor and 2 bathrooms. There is also a room off the kitchen that is the maid’s quarters that includes a squatter toilet with a shower—but we don’t have the maid. We didn’t know the squatter was there until we found the hidden door.

We have a tiny clothes washer but no dryer. In AZ that wouldn’t be so bad because clothes dry fast. Not so here. We have no hot water in the kitchen except a devise that looks like a rice cooker that heats and keeps the water warm. We have a gas stove, a microwave, and refrigerator.  Both bathrooms have an instant heat water heater and neither unit works very well. However taking a lukewarm shower in Thailand is OK.

Because it was the biggest holiday of the year – Song Kran, aka  “Water Day,” we could not get the internet for our apartment or the kingsize bed provided by the owner. Our apartment had been young elder’s quarters and had double beds. So, we put 2 doubles together. The holiday started Friday and lasts till Tuesday or maybe Wed. We have a large living room – dining room area. To cool the apartment we have 3 different a/c units that we only turn on when we are in that room. We spend most the time in the bedroom which includes desks for study.

We went shopping to buy supplies for our apartment, and that was an experience. We found a Tesco (like a Wal-Mart – sort of). We needed bed sheets and bought a bed set. However, we found that a “set” in Asia consists of one fitted sheet and two sets of pillow cases – no top sheet. We’ve since been told Thais use duvets, and that top sheets exist but are hard to find.

American food is available, but expensive. A box of Grapenuts was almost $10. A small bag of chocolate chip is about $10 too. We did buy a small jar of peanut butter at an escalated price.

The mission had transfers on Thursday. There were 32 new missionaries and 19 leaving, so it was a big event. They keep the new missionaries separate from the others until the meeting started. Then they made a grand entrance. Everyone stood and clapped as they filed in. The mission president and his wife spoke, a song “Remember Thailand” was sung by a longtime member to the departing missionaries, and then the new companionships were announced. There was great energy for the new assignments and sadness to lose those missionaries departing. I could tell the type of missionaries the returning ones were by their tears as they realized their missions were ending While we held the meeting a strong storm raged outside – lost of rain, thunder and lightning. It made me think of Heleman 5:12.

Some backstory: On Wednesday were given an assignment to go up country to a town and serve there. On Thursday the mission president change our assignment to work in Bangkok during the week, and then attend a branch 60 miles away each Sunday. Later we learned he had awakened during the night and knew the first assignment was not right. We are to help prepare for a general authority visits in May and to help prepare districts to become stakes so we can get a temple by the 50th anniversary of the church in Thailand – 2016.

Our first Sunday here, we arrived in Bangkok and went straight to the hotel to drop off our luggage, and then to the Asoke Ward to attend Sacrament meeting. They bishop asked Joan and I to bear our testimonies. We both did in Thai. Yesterday we had general conference broadcast – a week late. One could listen to it in English, Thai, Cambodian, or Hindi. Thai was provided with headphones along with the English. Even a week late, it was wonderful.

There are several senior couples serving here. In the mission office are the Jones, the Mannings doing public affairs, the Tabors leading family history and Marvels doing employment, gardening, and the Goodsons have taken over for the homeward bound Nordas and are over humanitarian work. Each couple also serves in branch/ward callings.  They are willing to help do anything the mission needs and are wonderful people. Several are on second and third missions. The Goodsons are on their fourth. There are several Thais in the Church office side of the building. In one of our next posts we will share about them.
This is a great view of Bangkok from the mission secretary's apartment.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

English Class tonight

We attended the English classes tonight at the Asoke building. There are three classes--beginning, intermediate,  and advanced. Each class has about 10 students. We watched Elders Gibbons, Appleyard, Sagura, Heap, and Mateos  teach. They are excellent teachers.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Our first transfer meeting was incredible. Approximately 80% of the missionaries of the Thailand Bangkok mission were in attendance, along with our 34 stripling warriors from the MTCs (Provo and the Philippines) pictured in my last post.

Pictured here are 19 elders and sisters going home--the Cobbers. The sister in the blue skirt on the front row will return to Laos. Most others will return to the States and several are from Thailand.

Cob (with a low tone and pronounced jobe) in the Thai language means to finish. Somehow cob came into use for those who had finished their mission service and thus going home--and the English ending of "er" was added to make it a noun. So these excellent "Jobers" or cobbers were honored today at our conference.

It was fun to watch the staying elders and sister meet their new companions. Each companionship hugged and welcomed each other. All smiles and tears. Beautiful young sisters and handsome young elders from all over introduced themselves in Thai. I wish them all choog dii, or good luck.

Elder Sowards and I have been assigned to Bangkok for several more weeks. President Senior has a great vision of what the Church in Thailand can build to and become. The goal is to reactivate and create stakes so that Thailand can have a Temple in the near future. What a boost this would be to the Church in Thailand. Hopefully we can be an instrument along with 132+ other full time missionaries and Thai members to bring this to pass.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

We are in Thailand!

Here are the new Thai missionaries at the MTC with us. Somehow I lost the post about them and how enthusiastic they all are. They remind me of stripling warriors.
New missionaries from Provo MTC as they arrived at the Bangkok church office building. Still enthusiastic and all smiles after a 30 hour trip across the Pacific.
After being in transit over 24 hours, 22 hours of it in the air, we were met at the Bangkok airport by our mission president and wife, President and Sister Senior. Their smiles were a welcome sight!

We have spent three days in Bangkok awaiting our assignment, getting to know the other senior couples at the Church office building, and eating great Thai food. We walked all over a mall looking for coconut milk soup--my favorite--with no luck, only to come back to the hotel and find it on the hotel menu! We also love Thai fried rice. It is the best in the world.

But today was the best treat. The 28 elders and sisters preparing to go to Thailand whom we met at the Provo MTC arrived this afternoon. Worn out, hot, but full of excitement and enthusiasm, they rode the train from the airport to the Church office building where we, and their lunch awaited them. The Goodsons, another senior couple from the MTC, arrived before this group. Then later this evening, another group of 6 elders and sisters came from the Philippines MTC. This makes 38 new missionaries including the Sowards. We will lose 19 missionaries this week who will return to their homes after honorably serving their 2 years or 18 month service.
Sister Ashley Rodriquez, Elder Sowards cousin, also serves in Thailand