Saturday, August 29, 2015

August 25, 2015

Greetings from Thailand!

Hello family and friends.  Well to start off I wanted to

explain about the bomb explosion in Bangkok that was

on the news.  It was actually very close to where we live.

We actually thought we heard thunder but later found

out it was a bomb.  We were so blessed that all the

departing missionaries who were out shopping and

touring that evening were out of that area in time.  Our

assistants were coming back from teaching and were

only 2 stops away from the explosion on the subway.

Fortunately, all were safely gathered in and accounted

for.  The members here were emailing and expressing

how worried they were about all the missionaries.   Kelly

was able to post information to all the families of the

missionaries instantly through IMOS.  Most parents were

relieved and some were wondering what was wrong

because they hadn’t seen the news.

You all know how I am with things like this.  I was so

rattled during 911 that I didn’t even want the kids to go

to school or anything.  Here there is just a calm that the

Lord is in charge of His work and the missionaries will be

blessed.

Just last week we had 8 departing missionaries including

Elder Wolfley our Assistant.  We received 9 new

missionaries that we had met in the MTC during our

training.   We picked them up at the airport at 11:00pm

on Tuesday. After letting them get some rest, we met

them Wednesday morning at 8am at the Mission Office

for orientation and training. The new missionaries are a

great group.  They are so eager and so willing to get right

to work and to speak the language.  They have a lot of

energy and are really funny.  They will draw a lot of

positive attention.  Kelly thought long and hard on who

to have as their trainers to ensure that they would have a

great experience as missionaries from the very start. The

first thing we did was travel to Lumphini Park, where

President Hinckley dedicated Thailand for missionary

work in November 1966. Refer to the pictures we sent.

We read the dedicatory prayer together and then each

missionary had personal time to ponder and to

rededicate themselves to the work and to becoming the

best missionary they can be.  We taught them to ride the

subway and returned to the office.

After orientation we had authentic Thai Food for lunch.

Some of the food was spicy and they still ate it like

champions.  My lips were numb again after a few bites

but no news there.  I may be adjusting better to the spice

or else I’m usually just so hungry that I will eat it anyway.  

They got their bloodwork to apply for their work permits,

then Kelly did personal interviews with each missionary. I

went home and started making a home cooked meal to

welcome the new missionaries.  It is a pretty huge affair

that includes the new missionaries, the office couple, the

Granges, and the office Elders and the Assistants and me

and Kelly.  It is a ton of food that takes forever to cook

but miraculously disappears in no time.   We finished

dinner and I played the guitar and Elder Smith-Driggs

sang I am a child of God.  He was in the BYU men’s

chorus and has a beautiful voice.  Then Elder Wolfley

played a couple of hymns on the guitar.  He was in a

band at home in Layton and played the electric guitar.

He is very talented.  We played a clip of him at the

transfer meeting and everyone loved it.  The next day

was transfer meeting.  What a fun day for missionaries.

They are so excited to see who their new companions are

and who the new leaders. A highlight is for the

missionaries to meet the new missionaries that just

arrived in Thailand. We keep the new missionaries out of

the cultural hall until their big debut.  It’s really fun.

Everyone stands and cheers as the new missionaries

come into the cultural hall. This time transfers went a lot

smoother.  Our first transfer was a few days after we

arrived here and we were clueless and everything was

different than usual because one missionary had to go

back to the Provo MTC because of problems with her visa

and only 2 came but were delayed a day and then arrived

several hours late.  It all works out though.  

We got a new Assistant at transfers.  Elder Cooper is

from Australia.  He will be wonderful and is already an

amazing missionary and leader.

After transfer meeting we had a farewell dinner with the

departing missionaries. We had Thai food at a restaurant

just down the street from our house called the Local.

The food is wonderful and it gives us a chance to visit

with the missionaries.  It was amazing how many

personal questions they asked us about dating and

getting married and about school and careers.   After

dinner we met at our home and had a testimony

meeting.  It was a great experience, the spirit was so

strong and I was so grateful I was there.  After

testimonies the Elders sang the Hymn, “I need Thee

every hour.”  Wow!!   This group of missionaries are just

outstanding young men.  I am excited to hear about

them changing the world for good in the near future.  We

had to get up at 3:00am to take them to the airport and

say goodbye.  I was thinking how I didn’t like doing this

every 6 weeks.  As wonderful as it is getting new

missionaries every 6 weeks it is sure hard to say goodbye

to missionaries every 6 weeks.  We really love them.

Friday night we went to a banquet to welcome us to

Thailand.  This banquet is held to meet with Public

Opinion Leaders.  We took a lot of pictures with different

Leaders and Leader groups.  They presented us with gifts

from Thailand, and the most beautiful and very large

bouquet of flowers.  I had been missing my flower

gardens a bit so it was very nice.

We were seated with the President and committee chair

for the Rotary Club in Thailand.  One of the ladies was a

very dignified and highly educated Thai woman.  She

lived in Ireland for a time and went to school.  Her

parents were both doctors and did a lot of good for the

people in Thailand.  When her parents died they left a

charitable fund to be used to further their work.  She

uses the fund to contribute to worthwhile humanitarian

work in Thailand.  She is very wealthy and is a Christian.

We had a very good conversation with her.  We thanked

her for all the good she is doing and she thanked us for

coming all across the world to help in Thailand.  She is

aware of all the good the church is doing here.  We were

served a delicious dinner and the prettiest dessert I have

ever seen.  Presentation is huge in Thailand and I am

convinced the food tastes better because it looks so

pretty.  Funny thing at dinner:  We had a young man that

is a member of the church and from Thailand sing 3

musical numbers.  One of the songs was the Carpenters

(Close to You).  She leaned over while he was singing and

said to me, “I bet you would sound so lovely singing this

song because you met your husband singing in a choir.”  I

truthfully was worried sick that she was going to stand

and request that I sing (to everyone’s soon to be

disappointment), or worse that she would make Dad and

I sing it together.  FUNNY.

After dinner we realized that we had walked to the hotel

for the dinner from our home and had to carry all the

presents home with us.  I had to carry the huge, and I

mean huge, bouquet of flowers home and I considered

just doing the Princess Diaries’ wave and “ thanking

everyone  for being here”  but I refrained.

Saturday we flew to Udorn.  I got excited looking out the

window thinking how green it was but oh was it hot

outside.  It has been really dry here and hasn’t cooled

down at all, meaning high 90’s instead of low 90’s ha.

We checked into our hotel before going to do training at

the Udorn Branch.  We were walking through the lobby

of the hotel towards the elevators and followed a frog

(big frog) just jumping along.  I wanted to get a picture

but didn’t have my camera with me, so Kelly said, “Don’t

worry he will come up to our floor and visit.”  Sure

enough, a few minutes later when got on the elevator to

come back down to leave I noticed our friend the frog

down in the corner of the elevator riding with us. Only in

Thailand I keep saying.

We got to the branch quite early before the meeting so

Kelly could do interviews first.  I went with Sister Forte

and Sister Laoli and the Relief Society President to visit a

less active sister and her husband.  Maa Pon (The Relief

Society President’s name translated is Mother Blessing.

She is a return missionary but is still quite the missionary

in her branch.  The sister we visited hadn’t been coming

to church for 2 months and her husband was over 6

months.  Sister Pon walked in her home waving us in and

grabbed a mat and rolled it out on the floor and plopped

down.  She told all of us to sit and then told the Sister

and her husband to sit.  We did.  She got right down to

business and asked the sister why she hadn’t been

coming to church and that she missed her and needed

her to be her friend at church.  She told her that is why

she brought the missionaries and me along.  She said it is

so important that Sister Johnson the wife of the Mission

President over all of Thailand came to see you.  She sure

knows how to pack a punch with her words.  She is

amazing.  We took pictures of course with the family and

they promised they would be at church.  Then we went

back to the church for the Ward Council training and

Family History Seminar.   I was so proud of Dad for doing

the entire training for an hour in Thai.  He will have this

down in no time.  They asked me to speak at the end of

the training meeting.  I had the cutest translator for most

of the meeting named Sister Gow.  Her mother is the

Relief Society President I talked about.  She is a return

missionary from Salt Lake City, Temple Square.  Again we

took pictures with everyone.  They are so kind to want

pictures with us.  It makes them really happy.  Whenever

Dad introduces us and tells them we have 5 children and

10 grandchildren there is an audible gasp.  It is pretty

funny and I just expect it now.

Kelly was able to interview the cutest couple for baptism.

We have a picture.  They are so tiny and so humble.  We

always look like giants in the pictures.   They had been

taught for years but wanted to be sure it was true so

they could live the gospel 100%. They actually have a

daughter serving a mission in Australia.  Sister Gow said

that they will make the best members because they will

stay true and faithful.

I (Kelly) did several interviews. I need to find a counselor

in the mission presidency so I arranged to interview a

couple of men so I could get to know them and to

consider them as potential counselors. These were

enjoyable interviews. I also set apart a wonderful Sister

as a full-time missionary. She is going to serve in

Australia and is leaving for the MTC in Provo. It is an

honor to set a missionary apart. My service as stake

president has really come in handy as I have 3 districts

here in Thailand that I am effectively the stake president

for. I have to do missionary interviews, missionary setting

aparts, priesthood advancement interviews, disciplinary

councils, etc. Doing this for 3 districts is a bit of a

challenge when I am also looking after 194 missionaries.

The missionaries in Udorn are amazing.  Sister Forte and

Sister Laoli are companions.  I was able to teach 2 times

with them.  They are so kind and patient and are

wonderful teachers.  Sister Laoli is so tiny it is hard to

believe that she is 28 years old.  She has the cutest laugh

and laughs all the time which makes everyone else laugh.

We posted a picture where Dad is still taller than her

even when he is on his knees.

Sister Forte is learning the language so well and works so

hard.  They ride their bikes all over Udorn and never

complain even though it is so hot.  She is so good to her

companion and loves the people in Thailand.

Sister McKnight gave up being a professional ballerina to

serve a mission.  I can tell she doesn’t regret her

decision.  She is the sweetest missionary and everyone

loves her.  She is companions with Sister Hoffman.  Sister

Hoffman is a sister I loved from the first meet and greet.

She is really happy and is a great missionary.

Elder Hancock and Elder Bunker are companions.  Elder

Hancock is Stephanie Adair’s relative.  He is one of our

newest missionaries.  He is amazing with the language

already and reads the script really well.  He was

supposed to buy a bike finally while we were there.  The

Elders joke and ask him why he wants a bike and doesn’t

he like running along side them on their bikes.  He

probably doesn’t mind and is working hard and doing

great in his first area.  We attended Elder Bunker’s first

District Meeting.  He said, “oh no pressure with President

Johnson here”.  He did a good job and really stressed

unity in their district.  He kept saying, “I don’t see any

reason why this district can’t be the very best district in

the mission.”  Then he would just smile.

Elder Sukhan and Elder Curtis are companions.  Elder

Sukhan is from Utah but he has family in Thailand.  He

has been wonderful at seeking out his family and

teaching them the gospel.  Maa Pon the R.S. President

was actually taught by Elder Sukhan’s mother who

served in Thailand.  They are still good friends.  Sister Pon

was so excited when Elder Sukhan arrived in Udorn.  She

has taken it upon herself to introduce him to anyone

remotely related to him so he can teach them the gospel.

Elder Sukhan finishes his mission in October and he

quizzed me with a million questions about life after the

mission while he was waiting for his interview with Kelly.

It was fun.  He wanted to know what kind of dates Kelly

and I went on.  I’d answer one question and he would

fire off another.  He is a great missionary and will

continue to do great things after his mission.  He only has

1 transfer left and is worried about “the real world”.  I

get that.

Elder Curtis has to have been born grinning.  He can’t

help himself.  He loves being a missionary, he loves

everything and everyone.  It is really infectious being

around him.

We rented a car in Udorn and drove to Nong Khai to do

the branch leader training and to attend church.  We

both spoke in sacrament meeting and then I was asked in

Relief Society to bear my testimony on the lesson.  I

luckily had read the conference talk prior and could do it.

(The entire lesson was in Thai and my translator was a

young Thai sister preparing for a mission to Salt Lake City.

I believe she could speak 4 English words really well so

translation was a bit scarce.)  I’m thankful that the spirit

is the real teacher in any situation.  I did ask Sister Grover

to translate part of my testimony for me.  She is the

mother of one of our sister missionaries.  Nong Khai is

her home town.  She was visiting for a funeral and was

able to see her daughter with Kelly’s ok.  She lives in

Idaho Falls.

I was able to slip into the Young Women’s class at the

end.  I took a picture with them.  I’m the tall one on the

left. Ha ha.  They were so cute and very tiny.  One cute

girl snuck into the picture right beside me and put her

head into my shoulder for the picture.  I just love them

all.

I (Kelly) interviewed a fine young man from the Nong

Khai branch that wants to serve a mission. He was

baptized several years ago but had been inactive. He has

come back strong and now wants to serve as a

missionary.

We had one baptism after church.  This sister had to be

baptized 3 times because her hands didn’t go under the

water.  She was so worried about holding her nose that

she held her arms straight out.  It reminded me of my

sister Rhonda’s baptism.  She was baptized 3 or more

times because her big toe kept coming out of the water.

I remember being so jealous because I only got to be

baptized once.  They sang Away In A Manger for one of

the hymns at the baptism.  It was just the sweetest thing

and in August too.

I made good friends with a little Thai girl.  She would

draw in my journal.  I traced her hand in my book and

she just lit right up.  Then she wanted to decorate all the

pages in my journal.  I satisfied her with 4 pages.  She

was so little that it was adorable when she would Wai

and say hello.  I showed her herself in my little mirror I

keep in my purse.  She loved it so I gave it to her and she

ran off to show everyone her treasure.

The missionaries in Nong Khai are great too!  Elder

Morley who had only been there a couple of days did the

Baptism.  Elder Merrill, Elder Nelson and Elder

Greenwood also serve there.  They brag about how

wonderful the branch is at being member missionaries.

After Kelly did training and we had a family history

session we left for Laos.  We had our senior couple over

family history meet us in Udorn to train both branches.

They are the Moleffs.  They are finished with their

mission in just a few short weeks.  If anyone reading this

letter feels prompted to take their place please let us

know right away.  We are preparing for a Temple in

Thailand.

Crossing the border between Thailand and Laos is quite a

process.  We couldn’t drive a rented car across so we had

to park on the Thailand side and take a tuk tuk to the bus

station, go through immigration and catch a bus to the

Laos side and then have a taxi take us to the church.

Kelly needed to interview a few prospective missionaries

and the new missionaries called to serve in Laos.  I got to

visit with the missionaries while Kelly did interviews one

at a time.  They ended up around the piano singing

Christmas songs one after the other.  It was a great night.

I (Kelly) am constantly amazed at the faith of the young

people that want to go serve missions. Both of these two

amazing young members are the only members in their

families. They deal with tremendous opposition to join

the Church and then the opposition gets even more

intense when they announce they want to serve

missions. The dear sister told me about her family and

broke down in tears telling me that she could not get her

mom to accept the gospel and that she felt it was too

late now. I assured her that her example would work

miracles for her mom and family.

The next morning, P-day the Elders invited us to

breakfast.  They rode their bikes ahead of the tuk tuk

that drove us to the small soi where the breakfast was.  It

was a really fun little place with hanging plants and vines

everywhere.  We ate sticky rice and mango pancakes.

We loved it.  After breakfast we had to drive back to

Udorn to meet up with the missionaries to go touring

with them for their P-day.     It was actually the first P-day

we have had since arriving. Sister Pon was one of the

drivers so amazingly we stopped on the way to our

destination to visit 2 less active members.  This sister and

her son were the kindest people.  Their living conditions

were quite sad.  They really didn’t have anything and

their home was open to the outside night and day with

only a thin mat on the floor and a mosquito net for

protection while they slept.  This sister would just hold

my hand the whole time and pat it.  Her one hand was

crippled and she couldn’t unfold it or move it at all.

Whenever Kelly said anything she would just nod her

head and say amen.  When we were leaving she asked

Kelly for a blessing and kept pulling on her crippled hand.

She wanted him to bless her to be healed.  When we

were back in the car Kelly discussed the experience with

the Elders and asked why he and the Elders couldn’t heal

like Peter and the other apostles right on the spot.  They

were worried that their faith wasn’t sufficient.  I learned

a lot with that discussion, mostly that it is God’s will and

our faith that heals, not one without the other.

We drove to a beautiful overlook and for a moment it

didn’t seem like we were in Thailand.  Sister Pon said

they held girl’s camp there.  We could hear a monkey out

in the trees.  I saw a lizard and beautiful butterflies.  Then

we thought we were headed to a waterfall but we were

with Sister Pon remember.  We stopped at a roadside to

meet two young people who were Elder Sukhan’s distant

cousins.  Sister Pon put Elder Sukhan in the middle of

them and said take pictures, take pictures.  She never

stops and is just an amazing member missionary.  We

could use many more of her in every branch.

The next day we participated in the missionary’s district

meeting.  I was able to teach an investigator again and be

interviewed by some local students.  They would just

giggle and say Hello. What is your name? Where do you

come from? What is your favorite Thai food? What do

you like most about Thailand? Do you want to ever come

back to visit?  They would do the interview in English and

film it on a cell phone for a school assignment.  They did

the same interview over and over until all of them had a

chance.  Sister Forte was interviewed also because she is

from America.  She would hold up a card with a picture

of the Savior during each interview so I did too.  At the

end Sister Forte gave each girl a card with the Savior on it

and told them that she was a missionary and that Jesus

Christ loved them and if they wanted to know more they

could contact the missionaries or come back for the free

English classes.

I forgot to mention that Kelly played basketball with the

missionaries that morning at 6:00.  It was a lot cooler he

said only in the low 90’s.  When he walked in from

playing he looked like he had showered in his clothes.

The basketball court is outside in the church parking lot.

The missionaries loved it.  Word gets around really fast

so I think he will be playing again soon.

A funny thing happened when we first picked up our

rental car at the airport.  We walk out to inspect the car

and I just about died.  The license plate front and back

had Playboy on it in big letters and the Playboy symbol.  I

kept saying no way, what should we do?  We can’t show

up at the church in this car.  We had no other options for

a vehicle so I took paper from my journal and folded it

around the license plate holders in front and back and

tried to secure it under the plate.  It was a blessing that

with all our driving the paper stayed in place the whole

time and no one ever saw the plates.  Kind of funny now

but definitely not then.  It was another Only In Thailand

moment.

Well we love hearing from all of you.  Ethan I hope you

love school this year and your new teacher and friends.

Aaliyah I am excited for you to go to school and to dance.

Corbin I love you happy boy.  I can’t wait for baby girl

Squire in December.  Jalynn I want details on all of your

dates this week.  Jaden please go to the doctor so you

can be healthy and I can have peace of mind, love my

baby.  Jace good luck on the job search and everything

else we talked about and don’t forget how amazing you

are.  Jami, we are praying for you and Jeremy.  You are

great parents and everything will work out.  Tell all your

sweet children we love them and miss them.  Thanks for

letting Ellie Jayne skype with us.  Devin we miss you and

your many talents and think of you every single time we

drive in Thailand.  Jared sorry about the hunt, better luck

next time, thanks for taking such good care of Jaden.

Momma and Dad Halstead, we love you.  Hope you feel

better soon momma.  Thanks for being so good to the

grandkids.  Mom and Dad Johnson, we love you and wish

you could visit your fan club here again.  Thanks friends

and family we love you.  Thank you Spackman family for

the package.  We will use it this Sunday and send you a

picture.  Thanks for your love and support it means a lot.

We leave Monday for our Mission President’s seminar in

Hong Kong.  It will be a great experience and we will get

to go to the temple.   We love our missionaries and the

people in Thailand and wouldn’t trade these experiences

for anything.

Love you all,

Terri and Kelly (Mom and Dad) (Gwandma and Papa J)








1 comment:

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