Saturday, June 28, 2014


Ayutthaya Elders Martin, Nowsuwan, Crump, Kettavong
All transferred but Kettavong. Elder Larsen from Fairview, UT has come to serve in Ayutthaya.
Finishing elders sing "To Bring The World His Truth." Three in this group served in Ayutthaya.
Cobbers (not in order of picture)

Elders Morgan Hunsaker, Morgan Marshall, Ian Lucas, Jeffrey Watts, Taylor Wilko, Marc Berbert, Michael Unsworth, Troy Christiansen, Jared Pearson Tarrell Merkley, Spencer Buehner, Brandon Barfuss, Garrentt Harris, Drew Jex, Jason Murray, Ryan Tirrell

New elders, welcome!
Elders Brandon Lee Butler, Ryler Jordan Despain, Luke Siebach Hartung, Todd Wyatt Nelson, Jackson Andrew Reed, Logan Jan Visser, Chandler Addison Williams, Devin Christopher Wright.

We home taught a sister who likes spaghetti. It was her birthday so we took her some. While we were talking with her and her mother on their porch, an older sister walked up, and in a not very nice voice asked the mother if "those foreigners" were “praying." The mother said “no", we were only visiting. The sister then said all types of mean things about us coming to their house. This is the same lady who months ago demanded to know why we could say a prayer in their home (after a home teaching visit) when they don’t send Buddhist monks to pray in our church? The mother apologized for her daughter, saying she has been sick (mentally) for 3 years. It was an uncomfortable situation.

Saturday, we held a music recital featuring Joan's piano students. Each played one or two songs. Joan taught them proper recital ettiquette and had them announce their songs and bow after playing. It was fun to watch them perform. Less than a year ago they could not read music or play any instrument. They get a half hour lesson once a week. The only time they can practice is at the church since they have no piano or keyboard at home. Cake (that’s her nickname) is the only non-member young woman taking lessons. Her parents were the only parents who came, though all were invited.

Sunday went better than expected –

Monday, June 23, 2014

Youth Posters

Four our Youth Activity each made a poster about themselves, their family, testimony, and goals.







Saturday, June 21, 2014

Photos of the Week

Elder Crump takes pride in his every-day shoes he has not polished in a year.

Neighborhood traveling vendor.

Piano students give recital after a year of lessons! They did great.

Bananas going to market.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Motorcycle Safety (or the lack of it)

Thailand has motorcycle laws. Each rider must wear a helmet, and no more than two on the bike. The laws are observed by only half the riders (at least outside of Bangkok).

I cringe every time I see a baby on board.

The motor scooter is the major mode of "family" transportation. Parents pick their child up from school. Many think they are only going a short distance, so why wear a helmet? The whole year we have lived here, I have not heard nor seen any type of campaign to improve motorcycle safety for children. Motorcycle accidents are a leading cause of death for children in Thailand, 2nd only to drowning.

Family transportation.
This woman is holding a cellphone, not the child.

Going at a high speed.

Waiting at a light, but the child stood the whole ride.

At least the adult in the rear is holding the child.

Standing on the runner is a favorite way to ride.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Historic Week--Now and Then

Tuesday we had Zone conference at the Asoke church building - 1.5 hours away in Bangkok. While there memories flooded my thoughts, I was there on this land (1970) when President Marion G. Romney sawed a board, when this, the first church building in Thailand, was being built. This was as I finishing my mission and one of my last special memories. Two years later, I came back with Willie Greene. The translation committee was finishing the final review of the translation of the Book of Mormon. They invited the two of us into the meeting. Not that we added anything but we were thrilled to be part of that meeting. This is the same building that our family went to church in 2000 on our first day in Thailand. We had come in the night before at 1 AM. This is the same building that Joan & I watched a meeting celebrating the 40th anniversary of the church in Thailand in 2006 when they asked all Thai return missionaries to stand. The room was full of “Thai" return missionaries. We have pictures of us with others who came to the celebration standing in this chapel. This is also the church that Joan and I attended on the day we arrived in Thailand for this mission. They asked us to share our testimonies in Sacrament meeting. We had only been in the country about 3 hours. So many special memories.

If I didn’t announce it before, our mission has already over 1000 baptisms this year, as much as all of last year.

For lunch at the zone training, I made root beer and we all had root beer floats. I had brought a bottle of RB extract from Mesa (which is almost impossible to find here), and we bought dry ice in Bangkok (not available in Ayutthaya). It was fun to serve the missionaries homemade root beer.

As said in our previous post, Sunday was a great day for the church in Thailand. We now have a 2nd stake in Thailand and also a new district divided off from the Bangkok stake. We have five districts in the country and they are growing to become stakes. Mike Smith (from his mission in Albania) noted "It is also interesting to note that both stake presidents and the district president are RM’s as well as one counselor each in both stakes. Both of President Senior’s counselors are RM’s not to forget that Thailand’s first Area Seventy, Elder Khanakham, is also an RM. All of these presidencies are Temple endowed and sealed with their families. This is what we all, as young missionaries (back in the day), envisioned for the saints in the country that we love so much.” Our branch remains a branch in the new stake. We did have one man from our branch receive the Melchizedek priesthood as part of the conference.

Anan Eldridge was at the conference too. He is in town with one of his sons. It is always great to see him and his smiling face. He told me that both of the stake presidents were missionaries when he was mission president. He was able to assist in ordaining one of them a stake president. (The other was ordained several years ago.)
Anan Eldridge, first baptized male Thai,
my first companion
and a previous
Thailand Mission President.

On Wed a phone call came in from a counselor in the mission presidency. Seems he was interviewing a member and somehow they discovered that she knew me. So he called and handed the phone to her. It was Sister Chantakan, who I helped baptize in Korat when a young missionary. I had lost all contact with her after the mission. It was wonderful to talk with her. I hope to actually meet her before we return.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A New Stake In Thailand!

Past stake presidents with Asia Area Presidency
On Sunday, June 15, 2014, our Ayutthaya Branch became part of the second stake in Thailand was formed from the Bangkok North District--the Thailand Bangkok North Stake. President Sathid will continue as stake president.

The conference was held at the Watergate Hotel in Bangkok in one of their largest conference rooms, but so many people in attendance that the room could not hold all who came. A new district, the Bangkok West, was also formed. The work in Thailand is going forward and the Church is growing!

This photo above from left to right:
Mission president, President David Senior, area President Elder Wilson, Brother and Sister Tip--the first stake president of Thailand, Elder and Sister Konakham an area 70 and second stake president in Thailand, the current stake president Sarawuth Kanyaphan of the Bangkok Stake and wife,  Asia area President Elder Gong, Asian area President Elder Woo.
Pictured right above: the new Stake Presidency for the Bangkok North Thailand Stake (seated center) President Sathit Kaivalvatana, and standing at each side is President Natthapol Lattisophonkul, first counselor and President Narin Yantaphan, second counselor.

Pictured right: Ayutthaya Branch on the bus,  to the conference. Early this morning, it poured rain in Ayutthaya. All of our members had to come by motorcycle or duk duk to the church to catch the bus to Bangkok. But they came! What faith these members have. Most were soaking wet when they arrived. Usually when it rains, Thai people stay home because their only transportation is by motorcycle. Look how happy they are to be together and on their way to hear representatives of the Lord speak.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Why is Sunday the Craziest Day of the Week?

Saturday night, everything was set for a smooth-running Sunday. I felt calm about what would happen this during the day. Just as I went to bed, a voice whispered that this was the calm before the storm. I wish that voice would have told me more!

It was a crazy Sunday. It stared early with a text message from the district executive secretary that we were to have all the auxiliary secretaries along with the branch clerk and branch president/counselor attend a meeting in Bangkok at 3 PM. I knew the clerk was to attend, but no one else. I asked the others at church if they could attend. This changed their day’s plans and mine too, since the counselor could not go, I needed to.

I had asked four people to speak in Sacrament Meeting. I usually only ask three but had asked four thinking two might give short talks. All four gave short talks even though two of them have been members for years and have been to the temple. We then asked two visitors to speak: one is a former member of the branch back visiting and the other a district family history leader. They still left time, so I spoke for about 7 minutes. We had asked a youth to play "Walk in the Light" on her violin, but she had to leave early due to illness. So we sang the song as a congregational hymn.

Elephant walking past church. The street is still not finished.
The parents of the ill sister were to lead a fireside on family history after church. We had to cancel that meeting. After church the clerk and 3 secretaries (Relief Society, Primary and Young Women’s) all loaded into our car and we drove to Bangkok for the training. We arrived back at the church late, so we drove one of the sisters home since there was no public transportation going her way. By the time we got home, our gas gage read empty.

An elephant walked in front of the church one day this week. I guess it was just out for an evening stroll, or on its way home from work. There are elephants in the city at the tourist park but not usually by our house or the church. The tourist park is not just for foreigners but many Thais go there to ride the elephants too.
Nativity puppets made by youth

The sister we took to the hospital last Sunday was in there all week. She is doing better but not great. I wish I could take pictures to show what this hospital looks like. Joan has said to not take her there if the need arises.

Brownies after YA FHE
The youth activity this Saturday was making a nativity set of hand puppets for the primary. When finished the youth sang the “The Nativity Song” and displayed their puppet at the right verse.  We showed the video "Luke 2" and ate Christmas cookies – it was Christmas in June.

Monday night we hosted the YSA monthly family home evening with six in attendance. Joan taught about spiritual crocodiles. I made brownies. They members all said they loved the brownies and want me to teach them how to make brownies. I didn’t tell them it was a mix.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Great Week--Better Late than Never

by Elder Sowards

I finished reading the Book of Mormon in Thai. What a great blessing to read it in another language! When I was a young missionary, I dreamed of reading it in Thai but it was not translated yet. I loved reading it this time and felt the same spirit I feel when reading it in English.

Joan taught the second music theory class Friday evening. Some of the members are catching on to the basic ideas.
We home taught several members who live way out of town. I am glad we have a car. It would be a real challenging to go visit these people and even more to get back home if we used local transportation. We have to go in the evenings after the members have finished work and local transportation is scarce at that time.

Our youth activity included making box scripture covers out of plastic fiberboard and covering them with gospel art. The covers are good to protect the books from the rain. They turned out great. 
The fried seaweed aisle at the grocery store.
E. Sowards is deciding which brand to buy for youth activity.

John Slaughter (formerly Elder Slaughter, who served here a few months ago) came into town with his father and mother. Together, we took a boat trip around the island city of Ayutthaya. It was interesting to see the community from a different view. I enjoyed seeing it when not driving and watching out for crazy drivers.

This week I probably set the record for the most non-medical welfare assistance for one branch in one week (in Thailand). It seems many saints are having hard times. I try to help them over the crises and to see that the pathway forward is the Lord’s way of paying tithing in faith and coming to church on Sundays and not working on the Sabbath.
Market in Ayutthaya

We went shopping to find felt to make nativity puppets for the Primary--but no felt to find in Ayutthaya. We always enjoy going to these unique marketplaces that are so traditional Thai. This particular one covers a city block and seems to go on forever.

We love serving in Thailand. Each day brings new experiences. The people of Thailand are friendly and helpful. The members of the Ayutthaya Branch are some of the finest Saints you'll find anywhere.