Friday, January 31, 2014

Former Thailand Mission President Smith Visits

President and Sister Mike and Janice Smith visited Thailand last week, touring the country, and visiting many members.The Smiths are from Mesa and Mike served in Thailand cir. 1970 at the same time as Elder Sowards. 
In the true Thai tradition of taking a group photo at every event, this photo is at a luncheon at the service center honoring the Smiths before they returned to America. Front row Sister Goodson (Humanitarian Services) Sister and President Senior, Mike and Janice Smith, Sister Sowards. 2nd row: Service Center staff, Ronny (Translation), Pae (Seminary and Institute), Supreeda (Service Center Sec), Pay (Translation), Elder Smith (Office), Wannee (Facilities), Wan (Accountant), Elder Casper (Office), Noy (Service Center Facility). Bro. Poonsak (Finance & Records), Elder Keller (Office), Elder and Sister Marvel (ERC, PEF), Bro. KC/Arm (Distribution Center), Bro Narin (Mission Admin), Bishop Arun (Seminary Country Director), Elder Meeker (Finance Sec), Elder Sowards (Ayutthaya BP), Bro. Jongsathid (Tech Support), Pres. Wisan (Thailand Service Center Manager).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Week of Surprises

We were to move to the new church building this week, but as I suspected it was not ready. We were packed to go, then were told not to move until Feb 2. So on Saturday, we had to unpack enough to hold church and move the other stuff out of the meeting area.

On Wednesday, we surprised a branch sister by taking a cake to the school where she teaches English.

The cake was for her 60th birthday. We sang with her class Happy Birthday and she shared the cake with her students. We didn’t bring enough forks so she told her students to share forks – which they were happy to do. (Try that in the states!). We ended up teaching her class for the rest of the hour.

Our branch had a baptism! This young woman is the last baptized in the old building and the first to be confirmed in the new. Also on Sunday, the sister who plays the piano for church went to Bangkok to get her patriarchal blessing, so last minute Joan played piano for Sacrament meeting.

Good news (we hope). On Sunday we had two new men investigators come to church. What a great thing if we can baptism some future priesthood leaders. Also, one male permagator (permanent investigator) told me he plans to be baptized before we return home - as a gift to us. He has been coming for 2 years, but needs to marry his "wife." I told him thank you, but that he needs to receive baptism for his own salvation.

We fed our four young missionaries on Sunday night (Elders Slaughter, Mageno, Crump, and Vance.) Joan made burritos. (We found tortillas and refried beans in Bangkok.) Joan also made enchiladas with salsa, and brownies too. They acted like it was heaven. It's always good to feed appreciative elders!

Funny Story about Communication

by Elder Sowards

While cleaning the church, a 9-year-old recently-baptized boy asked if he could help. I gave him a garbage bag that already had some trash in it, and in what I thought was my best Thai, asked him to go to the 3rd floor to empty the wastebaskets from the two bathrooms into the bag. 

Or that is what I thought I said. He went and returned about 10 minutes later, handing me an empty garbage bag. I thanked him, and then, when he was sweeping the rooms on the 4th floor, I went to the 3rd floor and found the two wastebaskets overflowing with the trash that had been in the bag. No trash was on the floor, just distributed to the two wastebaskets. I collected the trash and took it outside to the big trash barrels. 

I will have to work on my instructions.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Adventures of a Senior Missionary Couple

It's always an adventure in Thailand! - by Elder Sowards

As we finished a great district meeting at the church Tuesday, a lady walked into the church and proceeded to talk about a seven year old boy who telepathically told her things in her future. She also spoke of an American man (showed us his picture) who continually robbed her, even though she could not see him. She hoped we'd say it was a Christian sect. We did not know, of course, but told her about our church services. I am not sure I would be excited to see her walk in some Sunday.

Later that day, we (Sister Sowards, Elders Slaughter and Crump) traveled to visit a member, when a car swerved over from the center lane and almost hit a motorcycle moving into the same lane from the outside lane. Luckily they didn’t collide. The motorcycle moved to the center lane to turn. The speeding car pulled up beside the motorcycle and started talking (possibly yelling) at the driver. Then he pointed a gun and at the driver. After a few tense moments the sped off. That was scary as to what could have happened\. From my view the car driver was at fault. But at fault doesn’t matter when someone is crazy and has a gun.

We had a good experience that day, too. We met with the member as she had asked for a priesthood blessing. Her older brother had died last week and the whole family was so distraught that no one could sleep, and all were shedding many tears. I sealed the anointing and promised her, in the blessing, some things I had not thought to say or would not normally promise. I trust the Lord will deliver on His words. Then, I felt to ask her if her younger sister, who is a member, desired a blessing. She said her sister did, so we administered to her, too. It was a different blessing than what was said to the 1st sister. The whole experience was wonderful to be part of.

Saturday, I took the elders quorum president to Bangkok to attend the Asia Area training. I leaned much about improving the branch. One point I really liked is that, as a church leader, we cannot really help members solve their problems. We can only help them seek answers from the Lord. The answers will come from the Lord as the member prays and studies the scriptures. Our role is to help them do just that. Consider what that means in our own lives too?

While I was at the training, Joan led the youth activity. Each youth had to bring 3 things to put in a bag. These 3 items were to tell who he/she was. As the bags were opened, people had to guess whose bag it was. Then, the person explained the meaning of the 3 items. After that, Elder Mageno taught about family "Coat of Arms". They each then drew their  own. Joan said the bag discussions when fast, but the youth took 45 minutes to create their family coat of arms. The pictures were very interesting.

Monday, the Smiths (our friends from Mesa, and previous Thailand mission president) took Sister Sowards and I to Khaw Yay (translation: large mountain) a national park and game reserve. I had visited it as a young missionary. It was all dirt roads then. Today we saw a beautiful park much like Yellowstone. Their visitor’s center was comparable to any one might see in a national park in the USA. There are wild animals roaming around including elephants. We didn’t see any elephants, but saw some elephant dung. We saw some other animals – pictures attached. Another picture attached, it is of a replica of the last man-eating tiger killed in this park. 

That was about 10 years ago. It was cool

er there – about 62 degrees. (Cold for Thailand.) And it felt wonderful.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ayutthaya Branch is Changing Locations

We hope to move church house locations this week. The branch has met in our current rental for at least 10 years and is on a side street with little visibility. Our new location is still a rental, but on a major road and is a newer building. We are hoping the move will help our small branch grow and bring us closer to having a church-built chapel. It is a better location for public transportation and for our English class.

The construction crew has worked on our building for several weeks, constructing a baptismal font, putting in walls and room dividers, preparing the kitchen hookups, and installing the backdrop for a chapel podium.

Elder Crump taking a break from his busy missionary schedule
We announced to meet at the newer location this Sunday, and hope the construction crew will move out by then! A baptism is scheduled for the brand-new baptismal font, too. Our current
location has served us well with good neighbors, and security personnel.  Our members have mixed emotions about leaving but we are all excited about the change.

A formal open house is scheduled for Saturday, March 8.

Editor's note: As all good news is subject to change, it has been decided to allow the contractor one more week to finish his work. We will begin meeting at the new location in February. Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Our Cabinet

We now have a kitchen cabinet. Found in the basement of the mission office, and knowing we have a limited kitchen, the office elders brought it up to us. What a nice gift! Very Thai.

Little by little, we have a kitchen.

I think it's cute and goes well with the pink refrigerator, blue sink, and orange tile. Love it!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Children's Day and a Baptism

Sister Y's baptism.
by Elder Sowards

Our Zone Leaders taught the importance of baptism in a way I had not considered. “Go and baptism" are the first words Jesus told Nephi when he visited the new world. There are six times that Heavenly Father has spoken to mankind, and four of them, the messages is: “Repent and be baptized.” What does this say about the importance of baptism?

Joan made chocolate chip cookies for the zone training, and they went fast. What does that say about the value of freshly baked CC cookies?

Sister Y was baptized Sunday! We have been involved in her missionary lessons and it is a joy for us that she has accepted baptism. She is a student and is holding a weekend job--a very busy girl. She is already a great addition to our branch.

Thai names are a challenge for me to pronounce. Sunday, I sustained several callings and set several members apart in their callings, having to get their names right. We called a deacon’s quorum president and 1st counselor, and a full Beehive presidency. We finally have youth to staff these callings.

Saturday was Thailand's Children’s Day--a day to take children to visit fun places and give them gifts. Thailand has no Christmas! We held our youth activity (Joan's last post) and most of our youth still came. That evening, our home community held a New Years/Children’s Day party in the small park almost in front of our house. We went to check it out and soon found ourselves sitting with a bunch of not-so sober men. At one point they gave me a microphone and asked me to say a few words to the people at the party. I tried to politely be brief and let them know we liked being their neighbors.
Ever wonder what elders look like
when they are writing home on P-day?

On Saturday we received from the mission a used free-standing kitchen cabinet and a stove-range and oven. We were so excited to install them today. To our surprise and disappointment, we discovered that the stove is gas! We don’t have gas outlets in the kitchen or on the property. We though we had it made, as stove/oven combinations are hard to find. 

We are having a great learning experience. Please leave a comment. We'd love to hear from you!
-E. Sowards

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sister Missionaries Delight Ayutthaya

 We invited Sisters McDermott (NV) and Croft (UT) who serve in Changwattana to be our guests at Ayutthaya Branch's youth activity. They spoke on being sister missionaries and how they decided to serve a mission. Since Ayutthaya hasn't had sister missionaries in who-knows-how-long, we thought it would be fun.

Of course our own hard-working Ayutthaya elders were in attendance. They teamed up with the sisters and sang "I Hope They Call Me On a Mission" in Thai. Everyone was invited to sing along. Sister McDermott accompanied on the harmonica.
Elder Sowards led a panel discussion on missionary life. We learned that some of these diligent sister and elders have sweethearts at home waiting for their return. We also learned that most of them like chocolate. What did they wish they would have brought from the states? -American chocolate and bicycle repair tools were among the answers. How did you prepare for a mission? -attended church, read scriptures, kept commandments, daily prayer, broke ties with girlfriends.  Where had they hoped to serve before receiving their call? -"anywhere I didn't have to learn a language." (ha, ha!) Australia, Brazil, but no one said Thailand.

Every youth received their own missionary name tag.

Our closing activity included:
 -Learning to tie a necktie. (I have to chuckle about Thais tying ties. Thank you Noy from the service center for sending the bag of elders' abandoned ties.)
 -Looking up and reading D&C 4.
(I quoted from memory. Pretty good for an old gal!)
 -Giving an effective door approach. No, these elders do not live in the closet.

We also wrote letters home--actually, they were fill-in-the-blanks, but fun.

Sister McDermott played the violin as Sister Croft accompanied us singing "To Bring the World His Truth" in closing.  Then we ate homemade pudding in mini-cups. Ah! a taste of home.

As soon as the activity ended we whisked away our lovely visitors so they could catch transportation back to Changwattana for an early evening investigator discussion.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Unrest in Thailand

Some might have heard of the political unrest in Thailand. If you want to know more about it, information can be found on the Internet.

Since we live upcountry, we haven't experienced the protests firsthand, but missionaries living in Bangkok have. The church is staying neutral to political issues.

Here is a map of the roads that the protesters plan to close this week. The church office building is immediately north of #2 on this map. Our most central chapel is in this area, and four senior couples and one elders' apartment is located on this street. The mission president's home is within a few blocks.

During the last incident, 1000 people protested in the intersection of Petchaburi and Asoke (this same area) cutting off traffic in all directions, which also impacted the church office building at the same crossroads.
...compared to this shot taken in April
The joy of temp inversion. Bangkok in late afternoon....