Monday, August 25, 2014

Ayutthaya Public Transportation made simple

How to get a ride home from church. Easy.

 Go out to the street to the side the traffic is going that you want to go. Wait for a tuk-tuk or a motorcycle taxi to come by. Tell the driver where you want to go. Climb in/on the back and off you go. So much simpler than the US, and cheaper, too. Notice the girl waving before she leaves the screen.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dragon Fruit -- Mmm

Dragon fruit comes in red or white with black seeds. Here it has been cut in half.
The half on right side has had part of the fruit spooned out.

Dragon fruit has a light, pleasant flavor, but
its looks remind me of a tropical fish--not a dragon.
The name here is Pitaya.
Another wonder of Thailand!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

We're Half-way Through August Already

Time goes fast!

by Elder Sowards

I took the two elders to a service project on Tuesday. We did yard work in the hot sun. A member helping with the project found a millipede and cut it’s head off so it wouldn't bite anyone. The missionaries took pictures of holding and playing with it. I am sure their mothers will be concerned when they see the pictures.

Thursday night we attended a farewell dinner at President Senior's home for two couples finishing their missions, the Saengsuwans and the Mannings  and to welcome for the Smiths who just arrived. Joan made pecan pie and I made blueberry fruit crunch.
Farewell dinner for Mannings and Saengsuwans.
Welcome to the Smiths.

We attended and Joan performed at the Family Values Award program. (Previous blog.) We also attended a fireside afterward. Caitlyn Meyer who acted in the movie "17 Miracles" was the speaker. She is a very good speaker. 

Mannings and Sowards
Too bad most of our YSA cannot attend firesides like this because they live over an hour away and work late on Saturday to be able to make the start time. Also the firesides end late in the evening when public transportation, especially in Ayutthaya, is scarce. Sometimes we bring some of them but we can only take two and this day we had to be there earlier in the day for the awards program.
The Mannings organized the Family Values Award program. They will head to Hong Kong on Tuesday for the Public Affairs training. From there they will return home to the USA, having finished their mission.  They will be missed here in Thailand. And we will miss them for they have become good friends of ours.

Sunday was another long and interesting day. We had three great speakers in Sacrament meeting. I spent much of the rest of the day in interviews with members and with the branch council meeting. All of the sudden I realized it was past 4 PM and I had not eaten or drank anything since breakfast. And it wasn’t fast Sunday! We returned home after 5 PM and lunch/dinner was a peanut butter sandwich – it tasted great.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Family Values Award

Three winners  of the Thailand Family Values pose with
President and Sister Senior
The awards ceremony was well attended.
The Winners
Sister Sowards was part of the program. Elder Reed on piano and
Sister Grace Jackson on violin

The Family Values award is given to selected individuals who work to benefit families in Thailand, was held August 16.

The winners are:

Father Joseph Maier, C.Ss.R. 
Khun Paron Israrena
Dr. Siraporn Sawasdivorn 

Thank you to all who worked so hard to make this and excellent event.
Elders Reed and Kris

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Welcome Elder Angkham

Ayutthaya has received a new elder, replacing Elder Kittavong. Welcome Elder Angkham, who is also from Laos. There is only one branch in Laos, but they manage to produce many missionaries who serve in Thailand.

At the transfer meeting on Thursday, one of the two elders serving in Myanmar (Burma) finished his mission. The new elder called to go is Elder Jordan Smith who served in Ayutthaya last fall. He has studied Burmese and is so excited to go.
Ayutthaya Elders Larsen and Angkham

After the transfer meeting, we ate lunch with the Browns and Stockers at Que Pasa. Elder Brown served as a missionary right after Dennis. (1971) He and his wife been in-country as MLS missionaries now for about 6 months. Elder Stocker served with me overlapping about 5 months. The Stockers (also MLS, assigned to Roi-et) just arrived this week. We had a good time re-meeting each other. The restaurant was filled with young elders and sisters by the time we left. The owners must love transfer days!

On Sunday one of the few Americans serving on the High Council, spoke in the branch. Elder Sowards translated for him. It was easier than most translations because he had sent the main part of his talk before so Dennis prepare the words he might use. Because it is Mother’s Day (the whole weekend) many of our members who live away from home, went to see their mothers. We only had 55 at church.  We are shooting for 80.

We decided to show the CES broadcast with Elder Ballard last May, at our YA FHE. Hopefully, you all have heard his talk. For the rest, please go to and listen or read the talk "Be Still, and Know That I Am God." It applies to all of us. 

Because it is a holiday weekend and it rained hard in the late afternoon only three showed up for FHE. We changed the lesson last minute, (but still go read the talk.) We had a good evening and the small group allowed us to talk more with one sister who is a new member. She is having problems with her family not accepting her joining the church--a common hurdle for many members here. The advice we and the others gave her is to live the teachings of the church and her family will see her good works. We will pray and fast for her.

Monday, August 11, 2014

It's Mothers' Day!

Today (Tuesday) is the queen's birthday, so it is Mothers' Day in Thailand. We have been partying since Friday (as my earlier posts tell.) Every school had a celebration on Friday. The schools are out through Tuesday. But today is the official day, so our thoughts turn to our own mothers who have passed away, Margaret Kleinman Lisonbee and Donna Gylling Sowards, both great women in their own right.

Sunday, we celebrated after church. The youth and others made felt flowers, another sister made corsages, we had cake, and singing from the youth. Other than the firecrackers set off throughout the city (firecrackers are part of every holiday) it is a peaceful, respectful celebration.
Singing to the mothers

Youth sing the traditional Thai Mothers' Day song

We love these youth, and they each knew the song by heart.

I have to admit I miss hearing "Mother Dear, I Love You So" and "I Often Go Walking" but I'm sure I'll hear them for many years to come.

Happy birthday to the queen of Thailand. Happy Mothers' Day to all mothers around the world.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Branch Karaoke Day

The youth did their routine to
"Singing in the Rain."
 Thai people love to sing--and what a fun day this was! Our members loosened up and let their personalities and talents show.
The elder's quorum president had a
 great backup to his excellent

Sutaab and Boonlerd
surprise us with a dance.
Our Karaoke day was a lot of fun. All who attended participated. There were a lot of surprises, too. All the songs were in Thai. Elder Sowards, who never sings solo in public, sang "Longer Than" in English. I joined him on the chorus.
Sunday School Pres. chooses a Thai favorite

The young adults looked like Peter, Paul and Mary.
The hats added a fun touch.

Another singles group. The umbrellas added color.

Elder Larsen introduces Brother Shaw's song "In the Beginning." B. Shaw has a great voice.

Sister Phon won
best female singer award
Brother Shaw wows us with his
 My observation is that Thai music is beloved by the general public. There doesn't seem to be the division between music types as there is in America. Everyone seems to know all the songs, and Thais love to sing.

In our time here, except for hymns, I've never heard an American song sung in Thai. They have their own songs. Their language doesn't translate well to our music. It loses the tones, where in their music they incorporate the tones into the melody. They all know do-re-mi and use that instead of a-b-c-d-e-f-g. They use half-tones, too. The more modern music fits closer to our 8 tone scale, but the traditional is very distinctly their own.

We celebrated birthdays of Sister Pat, Brother Junmong,
and Brother Oom (not in picture)  

The YW sing their hearts out.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Thailand Bangkok Mission receives new elders and sisters

Pictured with President and Sister Senior are the new sisters and elders in the Thailand, Bankok Mission (not in order as pictured)
Sisters: Herrmann - Orem, UT, Alley - Spokane, WA, Zoller - Wisconsin, Nethercott - UT,  Peck -ID, Pitts - Albuquerque, NM, Brown - OR Mamea- HA, 

Elders: Okimoto -HA, Hinkson –Orem, UT, Curtis – San Diego, CA, Luker – Boutiful, UT, Hilton – Highland UT, Williams -Australia

Those who are finished and heading home are Sisters Crockett, Madsen, Yim, Sararat, Steele, Sahagan, Painter, Weed, Mullen, Greenwood, McDermott, Steward, and Broeder
Elders King, Cox, Fronberg, Utley, Neud, and Wilson

These are the sisters we came out with from Utah, and now they are going home--earlier than us because of their language training time at the Provo MTC. We have grown to love these sisters and elders so much. They are all great missionaries and hard worker. "Well done thou good and faithful servant[s]."

Friday, August 8, 2014

Thai Mothers' Day Surprise

Our ward member, Oui, who invited us to her school last year for their Mothers' Day program (honoring the Queen's birthday) is now in high school, 7th grade, and invited us to come again. Her mother could not attend and she wanted me to represent her mother at her school program.

Singing a traditional Thai Mothers' Day song

The hugs

Oui's mother warned us that the mothers would be honored. Elder Sowards thought it might be the same water ceremony we had at the church on New Years. I was happy to be with Oui, but a little apprehensive as to what might happen.

I sat through the honors program wondering and praying that whatever happened, it would all turn out well. We were the only foreigners there--and the only ones with non-black hair besides the Asians who had bleached theirs. I admit I worried about having to pose for a picture with all the mothers and have my blaring gray/white hair glowing.

After the students sang traditional songs, and were honored for achievements, male students lined about 30 chairs across the front of the gymnasium. They'd invite groups of mothers to come up and sit, then the mother's children came and knelt before them, bowed (the traditional waay). Some had three children at the school, so for them it was a group hug. The hugs lasted for a full minute. The children bowed again and the group filed back to their seats. A new group came up. There were lots of tears involved--an emotional ceremony honoring their mother.

Elder Sowards and I had not come unnoticed, and our very presence seemed to attract a lot of attention. When I stood to go up with the last group of mothers, I heard gasps, then a light wave of applause. It took all my courage to walk up and take my seat. Oui came and knelt before me, and with all the other mothers and children, we hugged. Many watched.

When our turn was over, we stood to walk back to our seats, but the leader of the assembly stopped me and asked me to sit again. I grabbed Oui hoping she would stay with me. Elder Sowards had come up to take pictures and he also was invited to take a seat by me. The students all became very quiet. We were given microphones and asked to introduce ourselves to the assembly. Elder Sowards said hello in Thai which set off more applause. He briefly said in Thai that we were from the USA and that we had 5 children. Then I said thank you for welcoming us--in English, then thank you in Thai.

What an experience. After the students filed out to go home, we went to talk to the leader. He asked if we would come back every day to teach English.

Our schedule doesn't allow for it, but teaching English is one of the fun things we do--and learning Thai culture. Happy Mothers' Day!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ayutthaya is Singing in the Rain

Youth learning dance
At the youth activity on Saturday Joan taught a simple dance routine to Singing in The Rain, It is for the branch activity next Saturday called “Sing for your Dinner” only in this case it is sing Karaoke/perform. She had them twirling umbrellas and dancing all over the small chapel. I don’t know where the spectators will sit. But it was fun to watch the youth learn. They've never performed like this. Joan did a super job teaching with patience and enthusiasm. The leaders loved watching, too.

Our Friday zone meeting

Elder Larsen's birthday

Sunday we had a great testimony meeting – no strange stories of ghosts or french fries. However during Sunday School one of our recently baptized members discovered his bike stolen. The bike was locked, too. The mission has a bike donated by an elder who finishes his mission this week.

Saturday was Elder Larsen’s birthday and Sunday was Elder Kittavong’s. How often does that happen?  Members brought five cakes to church Sunday to celebrate. Two, however, were ice cream. Someone put them in the refrigerator but not the freezer. They intended to move them up to the freezer soon after Sacrament meeting was over. But the cakes were forgotten in the problem of the missing bicycle. After church, they discovered the cakes had melted. The cakes were still good to eat as soup but no longer beautifully decorated.

We have been one year in our house in Ayutthaya. The 1st night was very bad because of the loud (bad rockband imitation) night club nearby from 10 PM till 1 AM. We questioned if we could live in the house for a year plus. We didn’t know that that would be the worst night here. The shop with the band has gone out of business. No loud rock music since the new year.

We have been serving for 16 months. It seems too short and yet long ago that we left. The stake presidency says they are working on a replacement for me as branch president. I think I will hold some kind of record – a foreign missionary to serve as a branch president in 3 different branches in Thailand. (Now and back in the first mission)

We fed the young missionaries bean and egg burritos with taco sauce from Taco Bell. E. Larsen asked how we had taco sauce in Thailand. We told him we have special connections. (Our children send it.)

We will speak in the Hillside Ward on October 12 at 8:30 AM! Please plan to come.

I challenged our young men to memorize D&C Section 4 and promised them their choice of anything at DQ. We took two boys to DQ today for their reward. Three have now accomplished this. The young women felt hurt that they did not get the same offer, so I promised them a DQ trip too. We already owe three YW a Blizzard.

My goal is to reread the Book of Mormon before we leave the mission. One insight I have received this round is that, while we speak much of the faith and devotion of the people of Ammon. They had faith to not fight again. We maybe over look the faith of the Nephites who served to protect them. Alma 28:3 tells us many Nephites gave their lives protecting the people of Ammon. They were men with families. Wives lost husbands, children lost fathers. They also exercised great faith in obeying their leaders and made great sacrifices too. I can be better at making sacrifices for others.