Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Homemade Violin

Another amazing week.
We passed this elephant on the road today. Also saw
a boy riding an elephant. The boy dropped his hat. The
elephant stopped, picked it up with its trunk, and handed
it up to the boy.

In our English class, we taught how to shake hands. Thais usually do not shake hands, but when they do, many do the "dead fish" shake. We are not trying to change custom but to teach them how to greet English speaking people, especially Americans. We teach conversational English and greeting people is part of it. I found it interesting to see the students shake hands with each other – some embraced the idea with enthusiasm and others were still hesitant. Then there were some who didn't know when to let go!

On Thursday I drove Sister Sowards, a senior missionary couple, and a church representative from Hong Kong to Ayutthaya. One member family--the husband American and the wife Thai-- has recorded names from cremation headstones at nine local Buddhist temples. They did this with permission of the monks and do the recording as a branch project with other members  – about 500 names per site. The man from Hong Kong was exploring this process and how the names might be entered on-line, either through the Church or a company such as "A Billion Graves." It was a good meeting and much will come out of it in the future. These names will help the Thais do their family history work. The Thai people have so few records otherwise and many Thais don't know even their great grandparents' names.

Back to Ayutthaya on Saturday-- visited a 65 year old man who hasn't been active in years. He seemed a nice man and spends much of each day caring for a son who has brain damage. One of the elders asked him about playing the violin. This brought the man to life. He showed us an electric violin he had made mostly out of recycled material. The main body was a plastic pint STP type used plastic oil bottle. He plugged the violin into a portable speaker and started to play. He did well. 

Then he handed it to Elder Engle, who also plays the violin. Elder E. sounded great. The man brought out a home-made electric guitar built much like the violin. He play it, too. He and Elder Engle played several hymns and Silent Night together. All this happened at a small table in front of his shop/home. His wife is a seamstress and has a small shop in the house located on a busy street. It was about 6 PM, people and many cars were passing by as he & the elder played. Some customers came & left while this took place. The last piece he played on his guitar was a song by the Beatles. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Every town has a tribute to the king and queen similar to this one in Ayutthaya. Every business and every home has their picture posted. Often times worker will have a photo on their personal desk at work. The royalty are good people and very much loved by the people.

The Primary singing I Am a Child of God, in English. Parents beamed. The children loved learning it and felt good about singing. There's about 7 children here.

Stand Ye In Holy Places--in Thai

I have posted in Thai my song "Stand Ye In Holy Places" on YouTube. Sorry I have no one singing, but I haven't figured how to do that yet on a mission.
To watch the video in English, click here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cute girl!

The branch sweetheart, almost 4 years old.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Storms, Celebration, and Snakes

It has rained almost every day and into some nights.  Most storms come with much thunder – exciting. Tuesday, a big storm hit about an hour before our English classes, but people still came. After English we helped the missionaries teach a sister a lesson about testimony. It was a wonderful opportunity to be part of teaching the gospel.

We had a multi zone conference on Thursday. It was very well planned and put together. It included a Find Waldo exercise, which taught some good points. The theme was "desire" and "diligence."  We discussed its importance to being missionaries. Everyone, including the senior couples, had to prepare a 3 minute talk on theses topics and gave them to the mission mother (Sister Senior) prior to the conference. We presented our talks a few days before. Because there were so many to give and time was short, Sister Senior had some of the young missionaries give their talks to Joan and I. It was inspiring to hear each person's talk. We were not sure who would be asked to actually give their talk during the conference. Two of the ones we heard were chosen. For lunch, we had SubWay (yes they are here in Thailand) sandwiches, cereal--as in the breakfast type, chocolate fondue to dip fruit in and coconut ice cream. You may guess that the zone leaders prepared the lunch.

On Wed. Joan and I met with the head of the Thailand Productivity Council to discuss how I might offer volunteer services to help them. Our visa to be in the country is that we give volunteer time to help the country. Teaching English is one way and we are always looking for other ways to serve. It was a useful meeting and we may do some things to help them. We met them at one of the most famous super malls in Bangkok. It could hold its own against any mall in the USA. The executive director of the productivity council, Ms Em (pronounced "M"), had suggested we meet there so we could find them rather than have us, as foreigners, try to find their office. She and her assistant spoke excellent English.

Since it was our 33rd anniversary on Wednesday, we explored the mall afterwards and had dinner. We ate at Tony Roma's. Our table was in front of a picture window and we had a great view of the rainstorm outside. 
We watched a doorman at the hotel across the street hold umbrellas as people walked between a nearby hotel and a mall entrance door. Then we ate cheesecake at a sweets cafe that had about 50 flavors of cheesecake, bought Mrs. Fields CC cookies, and visited the orchid festival. We had a nice anniversary celebration. We took the subway home but still had to walk in the rain almost a half a mile. Luckily, it was only sprinkling by then.

On Saturday, we left Bangkok early to go to a branch service project to reroof a member's home. It is a tin roof so it was easier to do than shingles. But it was hot. The good news is that it didn't rain while we were working. I didn't get on the roof much as the cross beams were 1" by 2" and could not really support my or any of the young elder's weights. That was OK with me. I found other ways to help. Saturday night we celebrated Father's Day with a meal at KFC and ice cream at Swensons. What a treat for us.

On Sunday, I sustained a new Relief Society Presidency and some other leaders. This may sound no big deal, but saying each name – their full name isn't easy –and I didn't want to pronounce any wrong. After church I had to set each apart – again a challenge to say the name and then pronounce a blessing on each. I concentrate so much on saying each word right that I feel I had problems hearing all the Spirit would have me say. The Lord has to work with what he has. The gift of tongues would be wonderful.

Joan played her flute while an elder accompanied her on the piano for a special number in sacrament meeting. The song was "When I am Baptized" and sounded great. The branch doesn't have special musical numbers often in sacrament meeting. The branch held a baptism on Sunday, too--a recent bride of one of our branch members.

Not all here is perfect. At one of the ward cultural halls here in Bangkok, they pulled the stage curtain and a snake cobra fell down.  In another building, the elders moved a volleyball net and a snake slithered away –this time they didn't know what type, but most snakes in Thailand are poisonous. 

Fun stuff.

Does anyone here speak English?

Sister Goodson went to a store to buy sheets. She doesn't speak Thai, so she drew a picture of a bed so they would know what she wanted. Several salespersons looked at the drawing. Finally, someone who could speak English came to help. She explained to the young man that she wanted sheets. "Please wait here,"he said, and after a few minutes came back --with cheese.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Orchid Festival

Today was our wedding anniversary and we went to Siam Paragon Mall for dinner. It is the same mall our family visited in 2000. (Remember? We saw the British version of Harry Potter #2. The ice skating rink has been replaced with iMax and other movie theaters.)

Visitors packed the ground floor of the mall to see the orchid festival. Thailand is famous for their many varieties of orchids.

Top L- these vases are totally covered in small orchids. R--life sized elephants covered in orchids greet visitors as they enter. L-- Five life-sized fairies (mannequins) each wear different colored skirts and head coverings of orchids.

Below: A swan, a peacock, and a sample of the many entries in the festival. Many of them wore 1st place, 2nd place etc. ribbons.

I'd never seen so many orchids in one place before, or so much
artwork in flowers.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Canandaigua Road --song

I learned to love this song the summer of '76 while participating in the Hill Cumorah Pageant. In those days busloads of girls from BYU rode cross-country to participate. We went by the name Sister, wore dresses and name tags, and were expected to conduct ourselves a missionaries--complete with companions and flip charts. It was a great experience that I'm thankful for.

Now I am serving a full time, couple's mission. I want to use the song, but the lyrics were a challenge to find. Thanks to my brother-in-law Jim Duthie, I now have them.

My apologies to the composer. If someone knows who wrote Canandaigua Road, please send me the name and I will give credit. The sheet music here is the tune as I remember it.

Canandaigua Road and Hill Cumorah in early 1900s

Down the dusty Canandaigua Road
Young Joseph Smith the Prophet quickly rode.
His eyes upon a lonely hill, a sacred mission to fulfill
Beside the dusty Canandaigua Road.

A Golden Book concealed beneath the stone
By an ancient prophet wandering alone.
In 1827 an angel came from heaven
To Joseph near the Canandaigua Road.

Joseph Smith
The Golden Book came forth into the light
To end a chosen people’s long dark night.
In 1827 when an angel came from heaven
To the Prophet near the Canandaigua Road.

Canandaigua, Canandaigua Road.
Dusty winding Canandaigua Road.
Devoting heart and soul to God
With his hand upon the Iron Rod
He traveled down the Canandaigua Road.

The fullness of the gospel came to man,
The Lord’s eternal and exalting plan.
A message from the Living God came forth from Old New England sod
Beside the winding Canandaigua Road.

The road led Joseph on to Carthage town
Where a mob with blazing rifles shot him down.
He died a martyr brave and true; His work is left for me and you
As we walk along OUR Canandaigua Road.

Like Joseph, walk YOUR Canandaigua Road.
Like Joseph, with courage bear your load.
Devoting heart and soul to God with your hand upon the Iron Rod
As you walk along YOUR Canandaigua Road.

Canandaigua, Canandaigua Road.
Dusty winding Canandaigua Road.
Devote YOUR heart and soul to God
With YOUR hand upon the Iron Rod
As you walk along YOUR Canandaigua Road.

Canandaigua, Canandaigua Road....

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Wear Your Thai Skirt to Church Day

 Today was Wear-your-authentic-Thai-skirt-to-church Day. Aren't these skirts beautiful? Even the little girl pictured wore hers. She is the sweetheart of the branch--and can you believe?--the youngest active member.
They delighted in posing me in Thai dance stances--so here I am. I had to hold my hands just so before they would snap the picture. It was a fun day.

On the more spiritual side,  our elders quorum president, member of the district presidency, and high councilman instructed us on the finer points of church welfare. Our four elders--Engle, Chambers, Trabing, and Unsworth sang Ye Elders of Israel in four part harmony.

We also had two returning missionaries and their wives visiting from the States. It is always good to have visitors and returning missionaries. One of the RMs had been branch president in the Ayutthaya Branch in 2006.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dancing Thai Traffic Director

This man is one of the perks of city living.
This video doesn't show all his moves. He's fun to watch, and keeps his dance up all day.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Our Week by Elder Sowards (May 28-31)

On Tuesday Joan made chocolate chip cookies. We passed out about sixty flyers inviting people to our free English classes and offered sample cookies.  Not every one would take the flyer and less would take the cookie, but after about an hour all the cookies were gone. Some people sounded interested in the class and a few actually came that night. Maybe more will come this week.

Driving to Ayutthaya on Saturday was not too scary – on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most scary, I would rate it an 8. That is probably low for Thailand driving. Once there, I took the elder's quorum president and two missionaries (young elders) and we drove another 45 minutes to a member's house in the woods. 

I never would have found the home without the EQ president's help. I am their home teacher. We had a wonderful visit. They live in the humblest of homes and grow vegetables to sell at the market each day. They told me the Lord blesses them to sell out on Sat. so they can go to church on Sundays. 

This same family went to the Hong Kong temple in March to receive their endowment. As the mother started to describe her visit there, I anticipated that she would discuss how impressed she was with the inside decor of the temple.  She never mentioned either but talked about how reverent and holy she felt and that during the five days there she didn't go sightseeing, but spent every hour she could doing temple work - first for her family then for the fifty-one names of family she brought. Have you ever spent five full days doing temple work? She was sad there are so many names still needing to be done. Since their trip, she has had dreams about her deceased family members whose work she did. She hadn't thought much about them for 30+ years but in her dreams they have expressed their happiness. They may live a simple life, but have strong testimonies.

I interviewed a man for the Melchizedek priesthood. He told how since he joined the church his and family's lives have greatly improved. He said he used to drink and had a terrible temper but now he has a much better love for his family and they for him.

Saturday, we visited a recently baptized sister. We went with the full time missionaries to teach about fasting.  When we arrived we found the elders quorum president, his wife and child, the brand 2nd counselor and his wife, and another member already there. All were visiting together on a street sidewalk near her house. We joined them and had a wonderful discussion that included an opening and closing prayer right there by the street. What great support.

One challenge we face every week is the membership records. They are not easy (for me) to read in Thai and most members use a nickname, not their real one. Few Thais ever know other people's family (last) names. If I were Thai I would be called Brother Dennis or Brother (whatever my nick name was). The only time my real name would be used would be in receiving ordinances and blessings or being sustained to callings. Their full names are often long and hard to pronounce (at least for me). This makes being a leader even harder. I can spend 5 minutes just looking at the branch membership list to find one name. We only have 120 members.
Ruins of Ayutthaya's ancient palace

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Farewell Party for Sister Ning

 I just had to add these unusual but beautiful streetlights in Ayutthaya. Those are elephants with tusks-- in the center section. Ayutthaya is an ancient city with many ruins throughout. It once was the capital of Thailand. It also hosts elephant performances daily.

Today was Sister Ning's last Sunday in Ayutthaya. She is moving back to her home village to care for her aging mother. I had no idea what a huge event it would be to say goodbye to her. Sister Saw bought 150 roses for $5 to make bouquets to adorn the chapel. She also brought a cake with a farewell message.

We started the event with our usual after-meetings luncheon. After the luncheon, everything was cleaned up and food put away. Then it was time for ward council meeting and everyone not on the council rehearsed a favorite Thai farewell song.

An hour later, council meeting was over and the roast began. Everyone stepped up one by one to make a short speech and have their picture taken with Sister Ning.
L-F Sisters Wen, Wasana, Gunjanee, Ning, Saw, Prachoob, Sowards
Sister Ning took it all in stride and enjoyed it.
We sang the song--with many tears shed, and then Elder Engle played a beautiful rendition of I Know That My Redeemer Lives on the violin.

To my surprise, the food was brought out again. It appeared as a whole 'nother meal with three whole fishes cooked and ready to serve. Amazing. I commented to Elder Trabing about this all-afternoon tradition. He told me they would probably visit two more hours and then prepare another meal at 6 PM. I have a lot to learn about Thai customs.

Sorry to say we had to head back to Bangkok and miss the rest of the fun--and the cake. Next week the Sisters will wear their traditional Thai dresses. They will bring something for me to wear, too. I'm looking forward to it.

A comment on the photo of the Sisters--Notice the poster above Sister Ning's head they made in her honor--the whole bulletin board. And I've never thought of myself as a tall person, but I look gianormous with these sisters. I love them all. They promised they would find a yay-yay (very large) Thai dress for me to wear next Sunday.  Can't wait!