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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Love you all,
Terri and Kelly (Mom and Dad) (Gwandma and Papa J)