Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Another Adventurous Week in Thailand by Elder Sowards

Snake visits church offices this week
Our house in Ayutthaya will be ready for us to move in (hopefully) on the 31st--though still without a kitchen. The kitchen won't be ready until Aug. 4th. But we have to be out of our Bangkok apartment on Wednesday. We just won't be able to cook anything for a few days – maybe we will have a microwave. We moved some stuff into the house on Sat.

We did get a car this week. It is a Toyota Vios that we are leasing through Avis. We really haven't driven it much, as we took the missionary van loaded with our stuff to Ayutthaya this weekend. Bangkok is not the place I choose to go for joy rides. We'll drive it to Ayutthaya on Wed.

We celebrated Pioneer Day on the 24th, too. It wasn't with floats or a rodeo but we had a luncheon that included cornbread, beef stew and chili American style (at the church office.) We also had Thai food. One of the Thai’s asked if Americans ate the stew every 24th. Joan told her yes – and several times in between! Actually I think the pioneers would have loved the meal we had. It did include a nice cake and ice cream. (No homemade root beer.)

Always Surprises

The theme for the English class this week was talents. Joan brought a guitar she found at the mission office and taught several songs (in English). The Thais love to sing. 

We invited four full time young elders to dinner Friday night. We cooked a sort-of roast, potatoes and carrots. I say "sort–of roast" because it's hard to buy beef here. There are small cuts labeled steak, but they're not any cut I know. They don't really cook up well. Our oven is hard to control, too, so maybe it wasn't just the cut of meat. Joan made gravy and the elders seemed to like it – they ate it all up. They don't get many dinner appointments from members here.

We made our usual trip to Ayutthaya on Saturday and looked at a building that could become our next church. It is in a great location and has many good possibilities for becoming a good church building.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

On the Bangkok--Ayutthaya Highway

 Ayutthaya is famous for their "roti" treats. It is like a stringy cotton candy eaten on a tortilla type flat bread. They are sold everywhere in these small vender booths--even at the side of the freeway. Just pull your car onto the shoulder and stop for a treat. The filling comes in multi colors as you see in the colorful bags in the photo above. Roti is very delicious.

This two-story high face is eery looking. It is the face of UltraMan, a cartoon character. He greets you at the entrance to a defunct toy factory. You can find it on Highway 32 several kilometers south of Ayutthaya.

We had dramatic skies on the way back to
Bangkok tonight. These are pretty much the same clouds a minute apart. I've got them out of order--the last on the top. The photos don't do Mother Nature's artwork justice. "God's light" streamed from the clouds to earth. You can still see a little of it in the photo below.

 We were blessed with a baptism of a teenage young man today in the branch today.

Maybe we will move into our house this weekend. The kitchen and air conditioners are to be installed, but it is Buddhist holidays Monday and Tuesday, so we doubt much will be done.

Have a happy Asamha Puja Day and Buddhist Lent Day!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Devotionals and Doctors

A busy week as usual. Last Monday I taught the devotional for the service center on organizing one's work using the 5's. The presentation went well, many said they needed to apply it.  

So that you understand the service center, it includes the couple missionaries who do humanitarian, family history, employment work, the mission office couple, and all the full time members (Thais) who do church administrative work – run the distribution center, facilities maintenance, transportation (two mission vans and one service center van), contracts for leased church buildings (churches and missionaries' apartments), acquiring new church buildings, the translation department plus administration for these positions, accounting, hiring and payroll. There are about 20 plus people plus 4 couples.   

Joan presented her devotional today (Monday). It went great. She shared some family history stories and the importance of keeping a journal and writing a family history. 

We went to the doctor – all doctors have their offices at the hospital so we went to the hospital. Joan had some tests done, then the doctor suggested we see another doctor. We thought we'd make another appointment and come back another day, but the nurse walked us over to the other doctor's office. We then assumed we would have to wait forever not having an appointment, but we were there for about 10 minutes before they saw Joan. All tests results came out fine. We were at the hospital about 3 hours total, had
This three-man ensemble played for those waiting to
check out at cashier at the hospital. Nice.
excellent service and checked out quickly, too. They renewed a prescription and gave it to her at checkout. It came in a nice cloth bag. All this cost us about $200 [and the efficiency we experienced would have never happened in the US.] This is a world-class hospital, too.

We have found a house in Ayutthaya. It is two stories with 3 bedrooms. The owner is installing a kitchen for us (since Thai houses don't have kitchens indoors). Hopefully we move in on July 25th. The move will save lots of travel time.

On Wed. night I went to my first district branch president's training meeting. I have been to many similar ones as a bishop. This were very similar where they shared all the things we need to do to follow the "Work of Salvation" plans and instruction. It is very good but a bit challenging. 

Our trip to Ayutthaya this week was otherwise normal--no snakes. We can't wait to not have to make the drive every week.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Gospel Light Shines Through Us

Elder Ganjanakrid, Brother Yut, Elders Appleyard, Gibbons, Sister B, Elders Tzanis, Davies
All members in Thailand have a conversion story. Few adult members were born into the church. In fact, I haven't met one over the age of 25. But all have special conversion stories. A great percentage of converts come from the English classes offered at every LDS meetinghouse on Tuesday nights. Sister B is one of those converts.

Sister B is a lovely girl born in Laos. Her father passed away when she was 10 years old. She left her mother and sister and came to Bangkok at age 16 to live with an aunt and work in Bangkok. Three years later, she came with friends to the English class at the Asoke chapel and met Elders Segura and Appleyard. She told me later she was afraid to talk with them at first. That first night she marked on her English class application that she was interested in hearing about the gospel.

The special thing about B is her spirit. When we first met, she seemed shy and frightened, but she continued coming to English class and missionary discussions. Elder Sowards and I sat in on a discussion where she talked about her reluctance to commit to baptism, and said she needed more time to pray about such a change in her life. She'd be the only member of her Buddhist family, and that concerned her. I believed it would take a few more months for her to develop a strong enough testimony of the gospel to step out on her own.

The next time we saw her—a week later, she was all a-glow. The change was obvious. Her smile, radiant! She had bounce in her walk. Where was the scared little girl I knew?

“I’m being baptized on Saturday!” she told us in her Thai/Laotian. I was in awe! It was a great reminder that only the gospel can make such a change in a person. Only the joy of accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and allowing Him into our life brings increased hope and true happiness.

The baptism was two weeks ago and she is still glowing.

Late note: Though we were not able to attend her baptism, here is a photo of her with Elders Tzanis, Davies, Ganjanakrid, and member Ronnie.

Sister Marvel's Marvelous Garden

Fun sign. 

 We pass this sign every Saturday in Ayutthaya.
Thought you might find humor in it.

I never could grow a garden successfully in AZ, but I'm almost convinced I could grow one here in Thailand.
Elder and Sister Marvel are full time missionaries with many assignments including promoting Self-reliance and directing PEF. They are live-off-the-land kind of people--and organic enthusiasts. Sister Marvel set out to prove that even in the big city, we can still be self reliant.

So, here in the center of Bangkok, in the backyard of the Church office building is this beautiful garden. Sister Marvel made the compost herself (along with Mother Nature) from the food scraps she collected from the many food vendors on Asoke (street). She teaches classes on how to have a garden on your patio, balcony, or small spot in the yard. She makes growing food look so simple. She has done it all herself.

There are many plants/vegetables growing--basil, cucumber, onion, potato, carrots --Hmm. I thought I would remember them all. But alas.

Just goes to show what you can grow in a small space.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Mission Call!

Sister Ged of the Ayutthaya Branch received a mission call today to the Australia Sydney, English speaking mission. We are so happy for her. She is one of the most beautiful people I know (inside and out). She will be an awesome missionary.

She submitted her mission papers even before Elder Sowards and I were assigned to Ayutthaya three months ago, and it has taken all this time to receive the call. The envelope arrived at the mission office yesterday, so we brought it to her today. Word spread over night and many branch members came to the church house to be here when she opened the call. It was a happy occasion for all.

Sister Ged has been teaching me Thai and now I get to help her improve her English. Traditionally most Thai members are called to serve in Thailand, so we didn't expect she would go foreign. This is a great opportunity for her, and when she returns, she will be a great asset to the church here--even more than the tremendous strength she is now. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Returning Former Missionaries

Former Thailand missionaries are beginning to return in full time service. Several RMs have served as Thailand mission presidents, but here are three of the first to return with their wives to serve as senior couples.

Elders and Sisters l-r:  John and Sally Hart, Dennis and Joan Sowards, Karyn and James Redd.

 President Mani Sangsawan of the mission presidency and his wife Nadda (not pictured) are the first returned Thai missionaries to serve couples' missions together here in Thailand.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Missionary Tales by Elder Sowards

The big news of the week is that I was made the branch president in Ayutthaya this Sunday. The District President, his first counselor, and the 2nd counselor to the mission president came. The 2nd counselor is now my 1st counselor. I don't yet have a 2nd counselor.

We also sustained a man to be ordained an elder and put him in as the 2nd counselor in the elders quorum presidency. He is a good man. I interviewed him for the Melchizedek priesthood and he was so humble. He told how his life had changed since he joined the church. How he once had a quick and bad temper when his wife or children upset him. That has changed now. He told me he didn't know how to read (Thai) very well, but with his wife's help, he has been learning by reading the Book of Mormon. After church, it felt so good to be in on his ordination. I didn't do anything special to help him but felt blessed to be there anyway. I saw tears in his wife's eyes as he was ordained. She is our young women's president and has been very faithful in her calling and supportive of her husband. Next step - get them to the temple.

To be a more effective branch president, Joan and I need to be in Ayutthaya more than weekends. So we are moving to Ayutthaya as soon as we can find a place to lease. We went up on Thursday and again on Sat. looking for a home/apartment to rent. We found some places, but none seems to work. None had a kitchen sink, or kitchen counters, much less a stove/oven. Most did not even have a place to bring water into the kitchen room for a sink. Several owners offered to build a sink, counters and stove in if we leased with them. We're still looking.

We have also decided to lease a car. I never thought I would drive in Thailand and now I feel a car is needed to be able to visit the members in the branch. Many live 30 to 50 kilometers away. Taxies are few in Ayutthaya. They do have an elephant farm where tourists can ride elephants; I don't think that will work for our needs. We pay about $900 for our apartment in Bangkok plus utilities. We are hoping to lease a house and car for about the same amount total in Ayutthaya. We'll see.

Bangkok North, East, and West Zone Conference June 13-14, 2013

Back row L-R: Elders: Renner, Kelley, Thomas, Harris, Bannakorn, Chambers, Krisanalome, Murray, Xayavong, Christiansen, Bennett, Nirut, Susi, Creer, Flannary, Appleyard, King, Staten, Chelson, Marshall, Engle, Terry, Gibbons, Barfuss, Crawley, Buss

2nd Row L-R: Mateos, Clarke, Xiong, Delagarza, Wilko, Bartholomew, Khettavong, Pearson, Trabing, Ganjanakrit, VanDenBerghe, T. Wheeler, Gilley, Watts, Kohler, Pyne, Davies, Tzanis, Jensen, Lucas, Tatton, Unsworth, Wilson, Sister Madsen, Steele, Reedy, Crockett, Itri, Zaugg

Front row L-R: Sister Mullen, Zatarain, Stewart, Sahagun,Yeo,& Carter, E/S Jones, E/S Sowards, E/S Goodson, E/S Taber, President & Sister Senior, and E/S Seangusuwan, E/S Manning, E/S Marvel, Sisters: Somboonnit, Wiganda