Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tom Sowards Visits

Dennis' brother Tommy came for a visit, arriving on Thursday just in time to celebrate Pioneer Day at the church offices. He brought gifts from the family, which we appreciate. We tried to turn him into a missionary while he was here by going to bed early, doing home teaching, cleaning the church house, helping to record the Chinese cemetery, helping teach our English class and youth activity.

Fish foot therapy
Tommy and Dennis at the Chinese cemetery

On Sunday Tom enjoyed our wonderful sacrament meeting and heard the primary sing the special number – The Holy Ghost. He enjoyed the Thai potluck lunch after church. Real Thai food.

We took him to see the giant Buddha at the nearby watt, the ruins of Thai temples in Ayutthaya, and the outdoor markets where he sampled real Thai food and saw elephants walking the streets. He sat for 20 minutes and let fish eat the calluses of his feet, and then was treated to the best chocolate mousse in Thailand. 
Goats returning home after a long day of entertaining tourists

We contributed to his game repertoire by teaching him to play Rummikub and Take Two. Ah, Tom! We will miss you.

We ate Mexican food at Que Pasa in Bagkok.  See 

Judo and a Few Surprises

At English class last Tuesday, we had “Speak Like a Cowboy” night.  We taught fun words including “Howdy" and “Whoa" and talked about pioneers. Joan had made a slideshow video of rodeo words that turned out fun.

Saturday for our youth activity, the elders taught judo judo basics. I am so grateful we only had a few bruises afterwards. The youth enjoyed it.

Elder Sowards drove the elders to Suphanburi (1 hour away) to teach an investigator at the only member’s house in that town. She was very interested. She drove herself to church on Sunday. Maybe some day we can have a branch there. There are so many large towns in Thailand that we have no members--area that are wide open for missionary work.

Elder Sowards took the branch presidency to the leadership training on Sunday. We are beginning to realize that when Thais say a meeting will go 3 to 6 PM they really mean 3:15 to 7 PM. While he was away, the wife of one of the priesthood leaders waited at our house. She and Joan had a fun time since she speaks little English and Joan only some Thai. They read scriptures (in two languages) together, made felt flowers, studied Thai and English, and discussed many things. She told Joan she wasn't married – she and her husband were baptized earlier this year and she is obviously expecting. This shocked Joan until she learned that the sister meant that they were legally registered as husband & wife but had no formal wedding event. To the Thai people there is a difference. She said the formal wedding would happen when they go to the temple.

We had a problem with a missionary misusing his Facebook privileges. I hope it is better now that President Senior has discussed it with him. The Internet is a two edged sword. And our elders do not have iPads yet, though they are allowed to keep a missionary profile page and post uplifting messages for their investigators and new members. They are not allowed to visit friends' pages or communicate with old friends through Facebook. Big temptation.

Congratulations to our son-in-law Chris Stapley and nephew-in-law Adam Brown for completing the bar exam this week. What a great accomplishment!

Impromptu English Class

We were invited to a school to have our picture taken for the English Camp we did last week--or though we thought. (Schools will write up a report of our visits for the system.) As soon as we arrived, our hostess took us to another school, and upon arrival asked us to teach English for an hour. Surprise! Luckily, we had Primary song posters in the trunk of our car. We sang and went over an English handout.

We had a fun time. Flexibility and being prepared is always needed.

This photo doesn't show the entire 138 students who came, or how delightful they were. In each school we visit they put us in a large open room to present or teach. Even though they have desks in the classroom, the children sit on the floor during our presentations. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lean Presentation at Taksin Hopital

Elder Sowards gave a presentation on how to implement Lean to the Bangkok Taksin Hospital doctors and nurses. He taught half in English and half in Thai. The conference chairman said this was the first time an English speaker had presented there. They invited him months ago to speak at the hospital. He also introduced the church in his presentation, and extended an invitation to them to speak with the missionaries they might meet on the street. We invited them to English classes too. It all seemed well received. 

This is the fifth LEAN presentation he has given here.
Question and answer time

Nurses and doctors

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Japanese Once Lived in Ayutthaya

Elder Meeker and Elder Sowards studying the map of Ayutthaya at the Japanese Settlement museum. Interesting thing about these settlers is that they were Japanese 
Christians who left Japan (c1600) when the Emperor declared no Christians could live in Japan. Their population grew to 3000 before they were forced out due to a change of kingship in Thailand.

Pioneer Day in Ayutthaya

Our youth activity this week was "Pioneer Day."

Elder Larsen started the program by explaining Pioneer Day as celebrated in Utah. He also told a story of his great-great grandmother crossing the plains. She was cooking breakfast when some Native Americans walked into her camp. She remembered Brigham Young telling the saints to be kind to the Indians and not fight them, so she offered them breakfast. They sat down and ate. Upon leaving, they told her that before they came into camp they had planned to kill her, but because of her kindness, they changed their mind. It was a confirmation to her to always follow the prophet's counsel.

Elder and Sister Meeker stayed to be part of our activity. Sister Meeker told about the crickets that came to eat the pioneer's crops in Salt Lake valley. Her great grandmother's family was without food during that time. They prayed for food. While walking along a road, a man came up to her and gave her a bag of food. He told her the Spirit had told him to take the food and give it to the first person he saw. She was very grateful to have their prayers answered by someone who listened to the Spirit.

All members in Thailand are pioneers because they are the first, and usually the only members of the church in their family. They must be brave and endure the hardships that come from being a pioneer.

We made biscuits and our own butter out of cream as we listened to the stories. Thanks to Sister Meeker's help, they both turned out delicious.

We even danced the Virginia Reel. I had worried how dancing would be accepted by our youth, but they learned quickly and seemed to enjoy it a lot. Some even said it was one of the best activities we've had.
Proud of the biscuits we made

Mmmm... And the butter

True pioneers

English Day Camp

Nine missionaries--Sisters Weed, Packard, Embley, and Elders Ketavong, Larsen, and Elder and Sister Meeker, and we went to Nong May Sung school outside of Ayutthaya to present an English Day Camp to seventy 11-13 year-olds.

We taught five classes simultaneously in eight half-hour periods. Much of what we taught was above the students' level. We tried to simplify the subjects the best we could. I'm sure by the end of the day, the students' heads were swimming in English, but the exposure was good for them.

It is a very nice, well kept school. They fed us a great Thai lunch and took good care of us.
Class showing their family cards

Sisters Sowards, Weed and Embley teaching Family

Elder Sowards teaching Opposites

Elder Sowards explaining the Opposites Challenge game.


Eleven YSA came to our home for family home evening. We discussed the dual between Elijah and the priest of Baal, played pictionary and had homemade chocolate cake, and ice cream. Elder Sowards announced the cake was chocolate but that we had vanilla ice cream if they did not like chocolate. Several of the YAs immediately responded,  "We love chocolate!”, and then they proved it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Missionary Couple's Week

Motorscooter photo of the week

We drove the elders to an investigator's home about 35 KM south. We had to cross an high arching bridge.  As we started to come down the other side, I realized the bridge ended at the bottom. The family parks their cars on the down side of the bridge. Glad I was going slow.

At that meeting Elder Kittavong, from Laos, did a super job addressing the investigator’s fears about being a Buddhist converting to Christianity. Having done so himself he answers the concerns better than we Americans can.

We had a wonderful 4th of July celebration with the Senior couples in Bangkok at a hamburger dinner held at the home of President and Sister Senior. The burgers were real hand made patties and tasted like hamburgers. A rarity here. Afterwards we all shared thoughts about our grand country and its inspired founding fathers.

Goats at the Catholic church.

The bridge that goes nowhere

Elder Larsen at the end of the bridge.
Boardwalks leading from the road to a house, such as this,
are very common, and shaky to walk on.

Saturday our branch took over 1000 pictures of gravestones in a soon-to-be-destroyed Chinese cemetery. We uploaded the photos to for indexing in the future.

Sunday I read the releasing of all the district clerks, secretaries, and high council, and then read in the sustaining of the stake similar callings. This is always a challenge to pronounce the Thai names correctly. President Sathit said the Branch President had to do it as authorized to represent the stake presidency, otherwise I would have delegated it. I am sure I said a few names wrong but they were not there to be unhappy with me.

Because we have several (5) English speaking members in the Branch, we started an English Adult Sunday School class. Joan taught the first lesson about Psalms and did super.

Happy birthday, America. And everyone who lives there, have a nice week.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Another Amazing Week in Thailand

by Elder Sowards

Transfer meeting this week was a big surprise: We lost three missionaries from branch and only received one back. With twenty-two missionaries leaving and only 8 arriving, the mission had to downsize so we lost a companionship. To make it more interesting Elder Kittavong stayed so we have gone from three English-speaking Elders to one – Elder Larsen. Teaching English class is now more of a challenge with 3 classes.
Elders Kettavong and Larsen

We have several English-only speaking members attend Sacrament meeting and the missionaries translate into a transmitter that allows them to hear the talks through wireless headphones. Elder Larsen, the new elder, has been in country less than 6 months and it is all his job now.
We have had several big rainstorms this week. The lawn was so tall I had the lady lawn-care person come cut it on Saturday. With the big storm we received Sunday nigh it will probably be just as tall in a few days. Two days of rain

We held a Work of Salvation Fireside on Sunday afternoon to help encourage more unity between members and missionaries. I was one of the speakers. We had made no-bake copies and I asked a few members plus the new missionary to come up to the podium. I asked if they looked exciting to eat (they look like mud). The Thais said no. Only E. Larsen was happy to try them, as he knew what they were. After they all tasted them they want more. I used it to illustrate that we shouldn’t judge people such as investigators or new converts.

Taught crocheting at the Saturday Youth Activity. Only a few were interested in crocheting, but it is good to be exposed to the basic stitch.

We held a special meeting honoring Joseph Smith on Friday June 27th. One sister said that her grandchildren had asked why Joseph had to die like he did.  She said after the meeting they understood more and had a better testimony of the prophet.

During our combined Priesthood-Relief Society 5th Sunday lesson, I realized how important reading is in the Church. The lesson was about being better teachers of the gospel. The stake Sunday School president used several lesson manuals to help explain how to teach. Most Thais and many Americans do not read the training material provided us. As I thought about this, I wondered where the Church would be if Joseph Smith had not read the Bible?
 We fed the two full-time elders Sunday night. We had bought Oscar Myers hotdogs and potato chips at an American food store to celebrate the 4th of July. We didn’t have apple pie but substituted brownies.

Gorgeous but tasteless. Thai people don't care for rich desserts as do Americans,
but they enjoy a great presentation such as this cake.
Brownies are American.

Everyone have a great 4th of July. Happy birthday, America!