Sunday, September 28, 2014

Krungsri Hotel, the Best Desserts in Ayutthaya, Thailand

Food is plentiful in Ayutthaya. Street vendors sell an extreme variety of Thai dishes--anything you are craving.

But one of our favorite places to eat in Ayutthaya is not a street vendor or street cafe. It is diner at Krungsri River Hotel. Elder Sowards claims they serve the best hamburger in Thailand. It calls his name every time we cross the bridge. The menu has a wide selection including American, Thai, Italian dishes (and probably others). The price is more than the street vendors, but is worth the extra. Besides, it has the best deserts, including the best dressed chocolate mousse (wears a cute fan and rolled cookie), the most delectable that we've found in Thailand. I admit we have returned many times to enjoy its deliciousness!

Chef Chiiwin and staff at Kringsri River Hotel
In preparation for Elder and Sister Meeker who were coming up to Ayutthaya to move our furniture back to Bangkok, we went to the Krungsri Hotel to ask that they have four chocolate mousse for us when we returned for dinner on Friday night. Usually they only keep two on display, so we wanted to order them special. Elder Sowards asked to speak with the dessert chef. The hostesses went to the kitchen to ask if he would come meet us, and he did! Chef Chiiwin told us he has worked as a dessert chef for twenty years. We complimented him on his excellent work and asked that he have the mousses ready.

So we enjoyed dinner with the Meekers--excellent food as always. But we got a great surprise when the servers brought out the mousses! Not only were they wearing their cute fans, but the chef had added edible artwork to the plate. They were not only delicious, they were more beautiful than ever.

So... when you visit Ayutthaya, think of Elder Sowards and I and how much we loved living here, and stop in at the cafe at the Krungsri River Hotel and have dinner.

Don't forget dessert. And say hello to Chef Chiiwin for us.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Our Last Week is Proving Eventful

Ladies of the branch who came to Ganjanee's for
the farewell party
Some of Ayutthaya Branch youth

Brother Five upcoming rock star
Ayutthaya has new elders: Heiner & Kandum, plus we still have E. Larsen too – yes a threesome. We were sad to see Elder AngKham leave after only one transfer here. He is now a district leader in another area. Elder Heiner is from Mesa and Elder Kandun is a Thai native from the northeast part Thailand. 
Elders Larsen, Heiner, Kandun

Joan taught her last music theory class. Hopefully the 5 youth that attended will continue to grow in their music abilities. They gave her a Hello Kitty as a going away present. 

Music theory students
At Book of Mormon reading class after theory, Elder Heiner asked who played the piano. Everyone looked up and Brother Now said 'We all do.' "Wow, that was a highlight of my mission." When we came, one 14 year-old girl played the melody line of the hymns for church. Now she is playing from the simplified hymnbook and moving on to the regular hymnal. All the youth have taken piano lessons and can read music. All the members of the branch that wanted to learn about music and the piano had the opportunity. It has been fun to see the branch go from very limited music to many being able to do or understand.

We went to Sister Kanjanee’s retirement party in the evening after transfers. The dinner was delicious and interesting as they served us various courses of food – one at a time. They had an honoring ceremony that we took part in, giving Ganjanee our best wishes and tying a friendship string around her wrist.

Sister Ganjanee
Joan taught how to make/bake chocolate chip cookies, chocolate pops, no-bake cookies and Texas Sheet Cake to interested members.Some were interested because they like these treats. Some are hoping to sell these as treats and become more self-reliant. I helped translate as Joan taught and did the taste test – no I did not eat the cookie dough! What surprised us is that the members were excited to see the cake rinse in the oven. Most do not have or use an oven. When Joan brought out the large bag of Costco chocolate chips (that Ted sent by way of Tommy) everyone was surprised at the size of the bag and the size of the chips. They even passed a cup of chips so they could sample them. We can buy chocolate chips here but they are small and not as tasty. The class went real well and one member remarked that he liked the ending of this training better than most classes (we ate the goodies).

The farewell party on Saturday evening was at a sister’s house out in the country. We had feared it would rain like it had almost every night. It did not rain! We were there with much of her family and friends to celebrate her retirement also. The member sister sent a small bus to bring the members out, too. We had a Thai dinner followed by Karaoke. After much karaoke the branch members sang "Come Though Fount” Then they asked Joan and I to lead the youth in a Virginia Reel dance. We had no idea that was coming. Next they asked Joan and I sing “Longer Than” karaoke that we sang weeks ago at the branch party. The evening was fun and always a surprise. We didn’t ride with the members in the bus/truck they came in but we heard they sang hymns all the way back to town. Almost like caroling. One member said it was the most fun he had had in a long time.

We found out in mid-week that we were the speakers in Sacrament meeting this week, not next as had previously been assigned. This increased our preparation efforts. Joan gave most of her talk in Thai and did well. I was assigned to speak about honoring the Sabbath. I tried not to criticize anyone but to help everyone see the importance of keeping it a holy day. We were two of 6 speakers on the program, and still ended on time.

 Jackson Shaver from Mesa came to our church on Sunday. He brought yummy American chocolates. He couldn’t stay long but it was fun to see him. Joan shared one of the bags of Hershey Nuggets with the Relief Society. The sisters ate with smiles on their faces and a Mmm! rippled through the group.

Sunday night the branch clerk brought some papers for me to take to Bangkok. Several members came with him, so we invited them in for a few minutes. Next thing we are doing is taking pictures. Camera phones are wonderful – our members are even better. At the same time Sister Mod Shaw put a slideshow with music on Facebook. It has lots of fun pictures of the branch members with us. It was so special.
Unexpected visitors: Top: Bro. Su, Sister Ben, Sister
Ked, Sister Saaw, Sister Baithery, Brother Nong

Monday night we had a going away dinner at President Seniors. The Goodsons are leaving this week and we leave next week. It was very enjoyable to eat and have family home evening together with the senior missionary couples.

I have discovered that finishing a mission as a senior couple is much more involved than a young missionary. Young missionaries just pack up leaving behind worn out clothes they don’t want to wear ever again, turn in the mission phone and go visit members and investigators to say good bye. They eat a lot of goodbye meals. As a senior couple, who is not being replaced, we must close the bank account, internet and phone services, pay off water and power bills and determine what to do with everything in the house. Some stuff belongs to the owner, some is the missions and some we bought. We are not getting trunky, but must prepare as all cannot be done last minute.

Five days left in Ayutthaya--so sad to say goodbye!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Our Last Transfer Meeting

We attended our last transfer meeting--yes, our last. Elder Sowards and I love to go to the meetings and feel the enthusiasm of the young people there. We love these elders and sisters and will miss feeling of their energy. We have full confidence that the missionary work in Thailand will go forward with full commitment from these missionaries.

Those finishing are Sisters Barton and Ng. Best wishes for your future.

 Thailand Bangkok Mission's new elders and sisters. Welcome!

Elder Mayo – Paradise, CA
Elder Paxton – UT
Elder Howard—Lehi, UT
Elder Davis – Arizona
Elder Mitchell – Payson, UT
Elder Walker – Sandy, U
Elder Evans – Boutiful, UT
Elder Bush – Maine
Elder Martindale – Logan, UT
Elder Pratt – West Valley, UT
Elder Parker – Holiday, UT
Elder Taylor – SLC, UT
Elder Reid – Washington
Elder Hinckley – Idaho
Elder Chamberlain – Sandy, UT
Sister Grover – Idaho
Sister Ong – NY
Sister Hatch – Springville, UT

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Visit to Chaing Mai

The Shepherds in Chaing Mai
We visited a member and sang “Happy Birthday” to her. She had tears in her eyes. That was the first time anyone had ever wished or sang her happy birthday. Celebrating birthdays is gradually becoming traditional here in Thailand when before it hasn't.
Sowards in Samoeng

We visited a mother of a sister who is serving a mission on SLC Temple Square. The Sister is originally from Ayutthaya but left from a Bangkok branch. She had emailed asking us to visit her mother and take a Book of Mormon to her mother and her step-father to read. We had a good visit and invited the mother to church. She said she may come.

The two young missionaries and I visited the mother of another sister in the branch. The mother is not a member and just had her knee replaced. She wanted a blessing. We administered to her. She then asked if we could give her younger sister, who was there, a blessing too. We explained that we usually administer to the sick. The mother said her sister had bad migraine headaches and could we administer to her. We explained that the blessing is by the power of Jesus Christ and faith in him to be healed. We administered to her too. What a special opportunity to use the priesthood to bless people’s lives.

I had challenged the young men to memorize Section 4 and I'd take them to DQ where they could have anything they wanted. All but one has memorized it and received their treat. The one is almost there. The young women felt left out, so I promised them the same. So now all the active YW have memorized it and have had a trip to DQ; we took the last two this week.

We had lunch on Friday with Anan Eldridge and his wife Rosella. They are wonderful people and always so kind. He took us to a wonderful lunch buffet at a 5-Star hotel saying he thought Joan might be tired of Thai food. We ate big time. Delicious! We love talking with them.

We usually feed the elders before transfers. Joan made German pancakes and the elders ate them up, but didn’t seem to want more than two – unusual for young elders. They confessed they had just had dinner with a member and investigator. They had planned to come hungry to our supper, but when the investigator invited the, they felt obligated. I would never had been able to eat both meals!

We went to Chiang Mai this weekend (with permission from the mission president) and stayed with Fred Shepherd. He has a very beautiful house in the mountains west of Chiang Mai. 

Shepherd's Home

Bbq bugs for sale at food market. Yum!

We attended both Chaing Mai branches’ sacrament meetings and also witnessed 2 baptisms.  I even met the daughter of one of the early converts baptized while I was there. Her father drove a 3-wheel taxi bicycle back in those days. When he joined the church his wife left him with three very young children to care for while he still had to make a living. This sister was the youngest who was not even a year old when the mother left. I had may doubts that he would stay strong in the church. The father has passed away but the children have all grown up in the church. This daughter said her father would not let her be baptized until she had a testimony of the Book of Mormon and had memorized the 13th Article of Faith. She was not baptized until she was nine. She  has two children leaving on missions soon – one to San Diego and the other to Rochester NY. I am most humbled to have helped start the gospel in that city 44 years ago.

Monday evening back in Ayutthaya, we invited a Sister and her son to have family home evening with us. The husband is not a member but she and the son are. We had hoped her husband would come, but no. We discussed prayer and Joan shared the story about when Von was a baby, we prayed and fasted three months for Von’s tear duct to open without surgery.

The sister shared a story about having only 100 baht (less than $5) and needing food. Her husband does car upholstery and had some jobs in the works but doesn’t get paid till finished. She had prayed very hard that they would sell an old bicycle collection they had for sell. People had shown interest but no buyers. She felt really down and had wondered why her prayers were not being answered. That evening some men showed up to buy the bicycles and paid cash. She felt blessed. 

We are very blessed each day of our mission. It is a joy to be serving the Lord.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Singing Time at School

We visited Wat Nongchid school for the last time today and sang English songs with the children for an hour. Principal Noy is a member of our branch. We came three times during the last school year, so this was a review of the songs they already had learned. They are amazingly behaved, and even toward the end of the hour when they were getting squirmy (having to sit on the floor) they still sang and kept focused. I love their school uniforms. All the students in Thailand, even the universities, wear uniforms. It solves the fashion competition and modesty problems.

We sang: Row your Boat, Singing a Song is Fun To Do, Kindness Begins With Me, Sing Your Way Home, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes,  Rain is Falling All Around, Make New Friends, and their favorite--Once There Was A Snowman. None of them have seen snow. This picture is of the entire student body except the kindergarten. And it is the smallest school (being set out in the country) that we have visited in Thailand.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Visiting Korat by Elder Sowards

We visited Korat for the weekend and tried to find family members of a friend of ours who now lives in Utah. The phone numbers we had did not work and we could not find the addresses even with the local missionaries’ help. 

We treated the four local elders to dinner (the sisters were in Bangkok). It was my birthday dinner. We couldn’t find any great cake, so we had a small piece of carrot cake and strawberry cake – OK but not Texas Sheet cake! After the dinner we got stuck at the mall for another hour-and-a-half because we couldn't get out of the parking lot. There had been a Scrabbleboard tournament all day with thousands of participants and it seemed everyone wanted to leave at once.

Plus two other filled rooms like this one at the mall
Scrabble game tournament
It was great to talk to the family on my birthday. Fast Sunday morning Ted, Rex and Chris & Kristy and family called to sing Happy Birthday. They then ate a great looking chocolate cake in front of us-- while we were fasting!

We attended church at the Korat Branch and it was a closure of sorts on the mission connected to my younger days of service here. I was assigned 11 months in Korat as a missionary then, probably the longest term of any missionary ever in Korat. I had many special experiences there and it was a joy to see the branch and its growth. Joan and I bore our testimonies in the Fast and Testimony meeting. To my added joy, they sang two hymns during the services that have great meaning to me from being there before. How did they know to choose those songs? Two men were baptized after the block, too. (There were 114 in attendance at the Korat branch. WOW!)

Elders Beebe, Amonthep, Crump, and Baanakorn,
with Bro. Nok in background.

It is a 3 hour drive to Korat. We drove over on Saturday and returned on Sunday evening. It is a very beautiful drive through the country but the drive is spoiled by crazy Thai drivers. I was stressed out after each drive.
Korat Sisters Yanisa and du Plessie

Joan taught music theory class on how to hear intervals and recognize them on the piano. The kids are really learning.

Monday night, a heavy rainstorm hit just a little before we start our singles' Family Home Evening. Still many members and one investigator came. For the lesson we listened (in Thai) to Elder Bednar’s talk about burdens, from April 2014 general Conference. We had felt it would be a good lesson. After we finished listening, I asked what people learned from it. One sister spoke about how she hated having to change her mother’s bed everyday. Her mother is very old and had medical problems requiring the need to change the bed each morning. The sister said this talk helped her change her attitude about this daily chore. 

Our family home evening group. The BP is lying down on the job.
Next the new Branch President spoke. He and his wife and daughter had come to see how the family home evenings worked. He humbly spoke about when he was made the elders quorum president after only being a member 2 months, he had thought he could not do the job. He had accepted the calling because he knew that is how we serve in the church. He said the Lord fulfilled His promise to make the burdens light in doing our callings. Now as branch president, the Lord is continuing to help him. Great learning from the talk.

For the FHE game we played wink-murder. This is a fun game but for Thais, who mostly do not know how to wink, it was a little challenging. Joan served Texas sheet cake (my birthday favorite) for dessert. It was great cake too and disappeared quickly. Joan saved a few pieces for us. This made my birthday even better. Those at FHE sang Happy Birthday to me and took lots of pictures. This is our last YSA family home evening. It has been one of our great joys while serving here in the branch. These are super members.
Our latest gift, a garlic wreath

Monday, September 1, 2014

Life After Being Branch President

This week's English Class topic was families and we sang "I am a Child of God” and "We Are A Happy Family." The Thais will sing these childrens' songs because we are the teachers and they want to learn. They even love doing "Once there was a Snowman" and "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes" with the actions. 
Elder and Sister Sowards standing by the Chao Phraya River

Joan made biscuits for a treat after District meeting – the 6 young elders ate it up, literally.

Pre-cremation ceremony
Last Monday, I mentioned that we attained the first day of a three-day funeral for the sister that died last Sunday. Then, on Thursday we attended the final ceremony. It consisted of people presenting monk’s robes to monks as gifted from the deceased. (A vicarious action!)  Everyone then placed flowers in the casket area and people shot off firecrackers. I think that is to scare off evil spirits. It does scare off dogs. Afterwards they cremated her body. We were not there to watch that part.

On Saturday the youth activity was Thai boxing. No one was hurt so it was a success. Joan made Uncle Vaughn’s fudge. She concluded that he was right – you cannot double the recipe. I thought it tasted great. 

That evening we dedicated a home for a single sister. This is not something Thai members usually do so it was a special opportunity. Afterwards she fed us Thai food. Her house is very old (she was born there) and sits on the bank of the Chao Phraya River.
Thai boxing day

S. Sowards and I both independently finished reading the B of Mormon on the same day. We had started again this year as challenged by the stake. It is a powerful testimony of Christ that is reinforced each time I read it.

Spent several hours for several days this week training the new Branch President. He told me he is being bombarded with phone calls, mostly from a few members. (Welcome to the club.) He has a super attitude in working out problems. He makes the decisions and I only offer advice when asked. He has started working with a M. Priesthood holder who has a drinking problem. I had suggested that he give support by giving a priesthood blessing. He and the man’s father, also a M. Priesthood holder, have now done that. The man is really trying to quit this time. (He has only made token attempts before now.) We were sent copies of the recently translated Church Addiction Recovery book and I explained to the branch president how it can help. Hopefully he will share it.

Joan is preparing some of the youth she has taught piano lessons to teach others piano. She taught the theory class Friday night on how to teach others, and on Saturday some of her students were teaching a primary age member to play the piano. She also played her flute, with a member she is teach to play the flute, as part of the special number in Sacrament meeting.

I don’t have a calling in the branch right now but was able to be a greeter and then to sit with Joan during sacrament meeting. That hasn’t happened for over a year.
The Seppi’s, a senior missionary couple, came on Sunday and took the 3rd hour of the block to teach our members about the new and improved Perpetual Education Fund. They did a great job explaining how it works and many members are interested.

Sunday evening, we visited the deceased sister's 12 year-old daughter. The new branch president asked permission of the grandfather if members could bring the granddaughter to the weekly youth activity and church. He explained how the church teaches the youth good morals and making good life decisions. The grandfather consented. I think the daughter is excited to be able to come to church again. The branch president did a better job in asking the grandfather than I could have.

Monday was our 17th month anniversary on our mission. We drove to Bangkok to find a flute music book for one of Joan’s students. We also had Family Home Evening with a wonderful family in the branch, a grandmother and her 3 grandchildren. They are great members and have been so kind to us.
Elders Larsen and Angkham, Pres. Chenowat,
Bro. Jalay, Bro. Phon with Ganjanee
at her house when it was dedicated.

We will miss Ayutthaya when it is time to leave. We love the members here!