Monday, May 20, 2013

Elder Neil L Andersen Visits

by Elder Sowards

Yes it was another hot week in Thailand – it is always hot but seemed hotter this week when the A/C went out at the church where we teach an English class. It was a big night with many people who came for the first time. There are several levels of English – ABC (basic), beginning, intermediate & advanced. We teach the intermediate class of about 25 students. There were over 60 people waiting to be taught and no A/C in the classrooms. We held the class outside until it was too dark to see and too many "yungs" (mosquitoes) to continue. When we arrived back at our apartment (that has A/C) we discovered we were really soaking wet.

On Friday all the missionaries in the whole mission arrived to meet with Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the 12 this weekend. We offered to house some 6 elders and ended up with 8. We held a mission fast in preparation to  meet the apostle, so we didn't feed them Friday night or Sat. morning. One elder even remarked, "I bet Sister Sowards makes great breakfasts!" We felt bad to not feed them. It was fun having so many energetic missionaries in our home.

When we woke up Sat. morning it was pouring rain. Not unusual for Thailand except we haven't seen heavy rain since the last time we had all the missionaries together – our first week here. (What is it about getting all the missionaries together and rain?) At 7:30 am we assembled at a "small" stake center size building about 30 minutes away by taxi. We practiced assembling for a picture with the apostle. Organizing about 160 missionaries together for a picture is not easy. We did get it set and practiced singing"Called To Serve" in Thai. Elder Andersen and company arrived about 9 AM and we sag as they entered. With Elder Andersen was his wife, Elder Clayton a president of the 70's quorum, his wife, Elder Watson, president of the Asia Area, his wife, Elder Wilson and his wife and Elder Woo, both of the Area presidency plus our mission president and wife.  We took pictures and then Elder Andersen shook hands with every missionary. We had a special meeting with all these leaders speaking or sharing their testimonies with us. What a great meeting. We ended our fast with this meeting. Afterwards, the young missionaries went to another church building to do their transfers. Most of the senior couples went to lunch. Since I am in the branch presidency I stayed for a priesthood leadership meeting.

I ended my fast with water, that helped a lot.  The priesthood leadership meeting was for all stake and district presidencies, high councils, bishops and branch presidents only for all of Thailand. The branch president for our branch hasn't been around since a week before we arrived so I was asked by the mission president to go. They had to ask the area presidency for permission for a non-branch president to attend. I was not sure if it was granted. They had special name badges to make sure only those invited attended. When I went to get mine, it was missing so I wondered if I was to attend. I was again old to go in and a makeshift badge prepared. Turns out a counselor in the district presidency (like stake presidency on we are in a district) had picked up my badge to hold it for me. The problem was that he didn't know what I looked like having not yet met me. (I wasn't the only non-Thai there and all foreigners look alike!) The branch preside did show up to eh meeting but since I had never met him the district president introduced him to me. We had little time to talk but I told him the branch needs him. It was a great leadership meeting like any one would attend with an apostle presiding. I have never seen so much Thai priesthood leaders in one meeting. What a great experience. I even randomly sat by a Thai who is the branch president in Korat, where I served most of my mission as the branch president. He seems to be a great man.

Made it home about 5 PM and we fed 4 missionaries who stayed with us Sat. night. All the missionaries, who are not serving in the Bangkok stake or north Bangkok district (our district) returned home. These 4 are serving in or branch so we invited them to stay with us. Joan fixed a pork roast (beef is not easy to find) with potatoes, carrots and gravy. I made a Kool Aid drink too. I can't find Kool Aid here and did bring a few mixes so it is special too. One of the elders said it was the first home cooked meal he had had since coming to Thailand. He came the same time we did. I think the all loved it by the way they ate it up. Joan had chocolate chip cookies and milk for dessert. What a feast. Then the phone rang and it was Sister Goodson, the humanitarian service missionary couple. She said she had fresh baked brownies and wondered if the elders staying with us would like them. I didn't mention that we had already had cookies and said "sure." She brought what I call (and love) Texas Sheet cake, my favorite. We all had more dessert and milk. We were well fed today.

Just a note on Elder & Sister Goodson. This is there 5th mission counting his mission as a young missionary to Hawaii. They served an English teaching mission in Thailand 10 years ago. They also served a mission in New York City among other missions. You can guess they are older than us. They love serving. Sister Goodson loves to bake, but Bro. Goodson doesn't eat many sweets so she is happy to share and we were happy to receive.

On Sunday we went to the "Impact Center", a large and very modern convention center for a meeting with Elder Andersen. In my work, I have visited many convention centers around the US and this one would outdo most of them. It was beautiful and fitting to host an apostle of the Lord.  There were about 1500 people in attendance – the most Thai members I have ever seen in one meeting. It was great and Elder Andersen promised the Thai members that they would have a temple someday in Bangkok. He said it may still be many years and hoped it would be in his lifetime. He said the decision to place a temple was a decision between the Lord and the prophet and not even the apostles have part in anydecision. He invited them to pray and to build their priesthood worthiness to get more stakes.  His testimony of the savior was very personal and I felt the spirit tell me that he know the Lord.
Ayutthaya Branch members attend the conference with
Elder Neil L. Anderson

We returned from the meeting spiritually feed. We took a nap (don’t tell our president) It was our first Sunday (or anytime) nap in a long time. It was a great weekend.

We love you and appreciate your prayers.

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