Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Busy Week!

Bangkok North District YSA fireside
Transfers happened this week. We lost Elder Vance and gained Elder Ngaosuvan. Now Ayutthaya has two Americans, one Laotian and one Thai elder. This also means our district meetings need to be in Thai.

We had two baptisms on Sunday, totaling three for the month. We also had 70 people at church – our highest number yet! We need to average 80 for at least 3-6 months to get our own building. We will keep working.

A sister, who was baptized here one year ago, gave a wonderful talk at the baptismal service. She has grown so much in the gospel. She is the young women’s secretary and teaches the youth Sunday School class. You can see the light in her eyes. Last week she received a temple recommend and plans to go to Hong Kong in June.

Sunday was the hottest day of the year (so far) 103˚F.  It even seems hotter with the high humidity. We attended a fireside at Changwattanna with four of our YSA (pictured).

Four of our youth went to the Bangkok North District youth conference held near the beach. They came back saying they learned a lot and had a great time.

We kept busy visiting members this week. Since they live all over the area, there is much travel time between visits. One recently baptized member showed us his beautiful Siberian Husky. As you might guess, this breed is very rare in Thailand.

Elder Trabing, one of the missionaries

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It's All Over But the Work

"It's all over but the work" -- Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley, April 2003, and President Senior every transfer meeting.

Today we attended a great transfer meeting. We wish Elder Vance the best in his a new assignment, and we're sorry to see him go.

Seven new elders have arrived to serve in Thailand:

Elder Beebe, PN,  assigned to Korat
Elder Gillam, Bakersfield, CA, assigned to Lopuri,
Elder Anderson –Sandy, UT – assigned to Surin
Elder Squire – Lehi, UT, assigned to Nakhon
Elder Takeuchi – Hawaii—assigned to Chaing Rai
Elder Johnson—Spanish Fork, UT, assigned to Bangkhae
Elder Jeng –Taiwan –assigned to Phitsanulok

A Brother who came to transport missionaries. I admired his beard
and he was happy for me to photograph him.
Here is the list of those going home. Among them are Elder Slaughter and Elder Trabing--both who served in Ayutthaya and loved by our branch.

Daniel James Cahoon
Christopher Taylor Chelson
Cache Riley Ellsworth
Kittima Phanthong
Jana Leigh Reedy
Suriya Sae-Dan
Wirawat Sanguansak
John Emery Slaughter
Thidarat Somboonnit
Brandley Dean Terry
Hunter Wayne Trabing
Schad Veerothai
Narongirt Wilamat

Elder Watkins saying goodbye to his companion, Elder Sae-Dan

Elder Sowards with Elder Slaughter

Sowards with Elder Wilamot

Monday, April 21, 2014

Celebrating the Easter Week

by Elder Sowards

 Last Monday night we had a huge storm. Though I slept through most of it, Tuesday morning we found the storm had taken down the papaya tree in our front yard.
 We and the four elders, and a few members helped clear a sister’s yard of fallen branches from the storms. It was a very hot humid day and we ended up wetter than Water Day. 

One sister was baptized this Sunday. What a special opportunity to be baptized on Easter!
Elder Vance demonstrating life saving technique on Elder Mageno
This week we went to a nearby Chinese cemetery and photographed headstones. We try to photograph some every week. We only have about 2000 names left to do before they destroy the cemetery in August.

The Lord helps us in different ways. I had been feeling we should visit one of the sisters I home teach. I knew she is not well, and had planned to call her on Wednesday to set up an appointment. She lives about 40 KM out of town, so our visits take a good chunk of our day. Tuesday night she called and asked that I come to visit and administer to her. It was a special opportunity to bless her.

Elder Vance, who
 worked as a lifeguard at the beaches in CA before coming on this mission, taught the youth at our Saturday activity about life saving and first aid techniques. This is a hard topic for any missionary to translate and teach and he did a great job. Afterwards, the youth dyed and hunted Easter Eggs. This was a 1st experience for the members in all three activities. 
Elder Kittavong joined the church in his native country of
Laos. Nine members of his family are now members because of
his pioneering. 

We attended the 3rd Buddhist funeral for members' parents since we have been here. It struck me as interesting that we were at a funeral where people had no idea about death and what happens beyond, at the time of year we especially honor the mission, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Easter Sunday: Sacrament meeting was wonderful. The primary sang Did Jesus Really Live Again and the elders plus a member, sang This is the Christ. Joan accompanied both on the piano. Both groups did well and the speakers gave great talks, but the best part was our little CTR4 girl singing with the primary. Each child (about 7 of them) held and sang from a Children’s Songbook, but she sang enthusiastically while holding the regular hymnbook. (She can’t read yet and didn't know the difference.) 

Happy Easter!
We are all brothers and sisters and can love each other in spite
of our differences. We have more similarities than we think.

We fed the four elders on Sunday night (Elders Kittavong, Mageno, Vance, and Crump.) This is transfer week and we expect two will be leaving Ayutthaya. We served taco salad for dinner and German pancakes for dessert. It is always hard to say goodbye to our elders at transfer time. Best wishes to them in their new areas.

We are happy to be in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we missed being with our family and friends at home at Easter.

We also miss Cadbury Eggs. Haven't seen one yet in Thailand.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Celebrating the Thai New Year

It is unusual seeing elephants on the highway, but
today we saw a herd of them celebrating the new year.
It is now the year 2557--at least in Thailand. :-)
Happy New Year!

Elder Crump’s bike was stolen from in front of church while we were all teaching an investigator. This is the first time we've had a bike stolen in our year in Ayutthaya. Our area is usually very quiet and safe.
We had three members in hospital this week. A Sister's seven-month-old baby who was born premature a few months a ago, has been in and out of the hospital with problems. Another member had surgery to remove a tumor. When we visited her on Thursday she asked for a blessing. What a great opportunity to use the priesthood to bless one of Heavenly Father’s daughters. The doctor had told them the surgery/hospital bill would be around $1130. When she checked out on Saturday the bill was about $580! (when does that ever happen in the US?) What a blessing to the family! We did visit with Brother W today who has been in the hospital over two months.  He is still not able to breath on his own so he is back to the RCU. When we arrived, it was not visiting hours, but the nurses remembered us and directed us to him. We only stayed long enough to give him encouragement and have prayer with him.

Making tacos between Saturday's sessions.
I thought about our recent baptized members seeing a conference for the first time. What do they think as they see not a small group of members but a huge building full of people, a great choir, (even though they don’t sing in Thai), and lots of great conference talks. I wonder what it really means to them?
We prepared Mexican food for the members that came on Saturday to watch General Conference. 

I had challenged the Aaronic priesthood young men to memorize Section 4, and told them if they did it, I would buy them any ice cream at DQ. One young man quoted it to me on Saturday, so I keep my promise. I treated the other young men and missionaries who came to the general priesthood broadcast Saturday afternoon to a small blizzard at DQ, too.

Honoring-the-elderly ceremony for the new year.
We are the elderly.
Sunday was the Thai New Year aka Water Day. The Thai new year tradition is to pour flower water on the hands of the parents and elderly while wishing them great things for the new year. Guess Joan and I and Brother McGeorge are the branch old people. Members came kneeling to us one or two at a time and poured flower water on our hands over a basin. Joan will probably post pictures on the blog. Some other members came to our house later and did the same thing.

As we drove through town, everywhere people were celebrating Water Day by throwing water at everyone else. People on bicycles, motorcycles and in the back of pickups are favorite targets. Often the people in the pick-ups throw water back.  Since we were in the car only a few people threw water on us.

Happy New Year -- 2557!

We Need Not Stand Alone

A non-member nineteen year-old girl came to the church asking if she could learn about the church. She had had a dream about a lamb, and had a feeling the dream was connected to Christianity. When she saw this picture of Christ with a lamb that we have in a classroom, she said it was the same lamb in her dream. How did she know where to find the church?  We had given her an English class invite card that has a map, some days earlier at a local grocery store. 

She came to English class on Tuesday. We helped the elders teach her on Thursday. On Friday she came back to the church before going to work. We were cleaning the building. She helped clean and said she loved the feeling she has when in the church. She came to several sessions of General Conference over the weekend.

She has a sweet, humble spirit and we hope she will be ready for baptism soon.

Update May 19: This sister was baptized the Sunday before a Thai holiday where families get together. She was so happy the day of her baptism--beamingly. The next day, this sister went home to be with her family. As so often happens to new members, they tell their family they have become Christian and everyone gets upset and talks "sense" into the person. Buddhism is the way of life here in every way and it is hard to break from. We haven't seen the sister since her baptism. She doesn't answer calls. She was taught at the church, and home addresses here are impossible to find. 

I hope the Spirit touches her heart and she will remember how great it was to feel the Spirit, and that someday she will return.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Zone Meeting Today

Elders Cutler, Love, Bartholomew, Finlayson, Merkley, Trabing, Crump, Vance, Mageno, Sowards, Kittavong

I love being with the missionaries when they sing. This video misses the mark at portraying what it is like. 
Name this tune that is a favorite at district and zone meetings.

Monday, April 7, 2014


Tonight's singles' FHE group.
Gathering--paper airplanes.
Song--Choose the Right.
 Lesson -- Elder Sowards on goals.
Game-- "Four on a Couch" led by Lhai. Refreshments--brownies made by Sister Sowards.
Laughs--by all.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

One Year Out!

by Elder Sowards

We took Elder Kittavong from Laos, a missionary serving in our branch, and his companion to Bangkok to hear Steven C. Wheelwright, president of BYU–Hawaii present about the value of going to BYUH and how Thais and other Asian members can apply and afford it. We also tried presented the information at our Saturday youth activity. At least one youth is interested in applying in 3 years. It would be a great opportunity for her.

On Sunday we had 8 investigators at church. They even stayed and listened to my presentation about family history during the combined priesthood Relief Society 3rd hour. I taught not by choice but the Asia Area Presidency had asked that the lesson be taught by the branch presidents. The other BP could teach it easily in Thai. I struggled through some of the Thai terms. We were asked to follow the outlined lesson plan from Hong Kong.  We couldn’t get to show on the LCD projector and ended up using Joan’s Macbook Air, which was hard to see for 40 people. Most of the members don’t use the Internet anyway, so maybe nothing was lost except lesson time.

Our branch sent four young men and five adults to the district general priesthood meeting Sunday in Changwattana. Probably the most representation Ayutthaya Branch has ever had at a district priesthood meeting.

Our surprise of the week was brought by Jackson Shaver of Mesa who often comes to LopBuri, just north of Ayutthaya. He brought a fun package from Ted and Rex about a month ago. Jackson called this past week and said he had another package for us--this time from Cameron McKay. Turns out that Jackson is in Cameron’s ward and happened to mention to him that he had brought a package to a senior missionary
Mexican food care package sent by Cam McKay
couple in Thailand. Cameron asked who and was surprised to find it was us. Small world! Cameron sent us two large packages of corn tortillas (6” size with about 50 in a bag), 10 cans of Rosarita Refried beans, a large jar of salsa, taco mix flavoring and some yummy candy. WHAT a treasure! We are planning to feed the whole branch. Most have never tasted Mexican food.

We helped teach a man from the Philippines with the young elders. It was interesting to watch them struggle to teach in English. During the lesson Elder Mageno bore testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. He said he had read it many times himself and with his family. What a wonderful compliment to his family that he can say he has read it as a family.

We said goodbye to Elder and Sister Marvel. They have served as senior missionary couple on emergency preparedness and the perpetual education fund. They
Sowards with Jackson Shaver--the
care package carrier
Taking brownies to the LopBuri elders,
Elders Cutler and Love

Farewell dinner for the Marvels
are always so enthusiastic that it is contagious to be around them. They will be missed.

Our mission had 212 baptisms this month. That is a great number considering the first few months we were here the whole mission had about 60 –70 per month.

Today (April 1) marks one year of our missionary service. We have been so blessed by being here in Thailand.