Wednesday, August 19, 2015

August 17, 2015

Greetings from Thailand!

Thanks for skyping again family.  We love hearing from you and seeing

the grandkids.  They make us very happy.  Thank you grandparents for

emailing us.  Thanks good friends for your letters they mean a lot to us.

Since the last letter we have had some amazing experiences we’d like

to share.

We were able to go to Myanmar to visit our four missionaries (Elders)

and our two senior couples.  They have had major flooding in Myanmar

and many lives have been lost and many homes destroyed.  In Yangon

where we were visiting they were doing ok.  They hadn’t flooded and

were grateful.  Many people were collecting donations and trying to

help the flood victims.  We could see from the airplane as we were

landing the flooding in surrounding areas.

I managed to bring the Elders Tim Tam cookies which is all they

requested.  Dad fit as many as he could in his carry on suitcase.  They

made it through customs easier than we did.  They were pretty excited

and I thought how easy it is to please them.  They are amazing Elders.

They receive their mission call to Thailand, go to the MTC and learn

Thai, arrive in Thailand and serve for a short time and then are called to

Myanmar to serve the remaining time of the mission.  They learn the

Myanmar language without any help at all, then they teach the gospel

without a translated Myanmar Book of Mormon and they can’t openly

proselyte.  They teach free English classes and have over 100 students

at a time.  They can teach from member referrals and they have an

awesome branch of members there.

We were able to go visit a family with the Elders on Saturday.  (Pictures

are attached.) The two sisters, Wynee and Bobbie are members.  The

brothers aren’t but they go to church occasionally when they are not

out working on ships on the seas.  The father is a pastor for another

Christian church.  He converted from Hindu to Buddhist to Christian and

the Elders are trying to get him to take one more leap and become a

Mormon.    He respects the church and believes that a religion must

have a Savior to be true, but he thinks the Father, the Son, and the Holy

Ghost are one person.  He also thinks our church should have livelier

music and singing.  He plays upbeat Christian songs on his guitar and

thinks our meetings would be less boring with better music.  The sisters

are wonderful.    Dad shared this experience:

As we were sitting with this family we quickly learned that they were

Christian. They talked about Christ and seemed to have great faith in

Him. The father played us a couple of songs on his guitar and sang for

us. The songs were about Christ. I felt that this family had hope in Christ

and looked to him as their redeemer. They seemed fairly happy, even in

their humble situation. The entire family consisting of father and

mother, and their 5 adult children, and one grandchild, live together in

a very small apartment. We had a nice visit. After we had been there

about 30 minutes, Wynee and Bobbie, both members,  got home and

walked through the door. I had an amazing experience as I saw two

sisters walk into the room with the most shining and bright

countenances ever. The contrast between the members of the family

was obvious, and it was so easy to see the light of the true gospel

burning brightly in the countenances of these two sisters. The scripture

in Alma 5:14 became real, where the question is asked, “have ye

received his image in your countenances?” These two sisters had, and it

was so obvious.

The Elders told us we were having lunch with this family and told us

that custom is that they don’t eat with us instead they serve us lunch

and watch us eat.  I was so glad the Elders warned us or it would have

been very uncomfortable or more uncomfortable than it was, I should

say.

They are such a gracious family.  They fed us a wonderful meal and

wanted us to enjoy all they had.  The Elders must have thanked them

20 times during the meal.  I was so proud of them, they are so kind and

grateful and really care about this family.

We took several pictures with the family and then the Elders asked if

we could have a prayer together before we left.  The father asked Kelly

if he would pray.  Before he could pray the father said, “If you could,

please pray that we can find jobs to help our family and if you would

please pray that my daughter will be safe working in Dubai and that her

son will be fine to stay here with family, and if you could please ask that

my wife can have good health, she was in bed for 3 years so sick and is

now doing better and please ask God to watch over my son who is

working at sea that he will return home to us.”  It was such a tender

thing to hear this father plead to Kelly to plead to God on behalf of his

family.

Kelly gave a beautiful prayer and a priesthood blessing for the whole

family.  The next day the whole family came to church except the

father.   The oldest son said, “Next time you come to visit, you come to

my house, I insist you are welcome.”

Dad and I left with Elder Savage and Elder Magera to go and meet up

with Elder Hinkson and Elder Hall and the Senior couples, the Petts and

the Sippels to have dinner at the Green Elephant.  I know Elders are

always hungry but I have never seen anyone eat as much food in one

sitting as these Elders.  They are all tall and skinny too.  The restaurant

was pretty much outside with a roof covering.  We enjoyed the dinner

and the mosquitos enjoyed me for dinner.  I have about 20 bites on my

legs still and that was with 20% deet on.  I am looking for something

stronger.

The branch in Myanmar is beautiful.  The members are so humble and

so kind to everyone.  The branch president is like Bro. Winters,

respected and loved by everyone, and quiet and humble and Christ-like.

One of his counselors is from Japan.  There are a lot of language

barriers in that ward but it doesn’t seem to stop the spirit from

teaching the gospel.  I went to Mission Preparation Class with the

Elders while Kelly was in interviews.  This class was taught mostly in

English with some Myanmar when needed for translation.  I had a neat

experience when the sister sitting next to me asked a question in

Myanmar.  I looked at the Elder and said, “Did she just ask why only the

Elders can baptize and not the sister missionaries?”  I think he was a

little shocked and said the gift of tongues is real.  I actually said, “Do

you mind if I answer that one Elder”.  It was a great experience.  They

only have chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel translated in Myanmar.  The

Elders work on translating parts of the Book of Mormon and other

essentials.  They are translating grammar books for new missionaries to

help them learn the language much easier than they did.  They do have

a Myanmar Bible but it is not the King James version that we are used

to.  Kelly calls the Myanmar Elders our Heroes.  So true, we sure love

them.

I just wanted to mention a few others in the branch so I never forget

them.  The branch president’s wife is a sweetheart.  Every Sunday she

brings flowers to the church and makes beautiful arrangements for the

chapel and Relief Society.  She gave me a yellow rose the Sunday I was

there.  Two other sisters were trying to pin a corsage they made on me

and saw my yellow rose and took it and put it in the middle of their

corsage and then pinned it on.  They made dad a boutonniere too, and

he ended up with a yellow rose in the middle also.

In Mission Prep, a young man whose sister is turning in her papers to go

on a mission is only 11 but comes every Sunday so he can be ready to

serve when he is old enough.

Sister Yin Lwin is the missionary Kelly released via skype from Myanmar

shortly after we arrived in Thailand.  Dad invited me in to meet her and

her parents because he was so impressed with her and her father’s

conversion story.  He had a dream years ago and saw the Salt Lake City

Temple and the LDS Hymnbook without knowing or seeing anything

about them ever before.  When he was invited later to go to an LDS

church he walked in and saw a picture of the temple and the

Hymnbook and knew he was supposed to join this church because he

had seen these in a dream years before.  He has been a member for 11

years.  He is so proud his daughter served a mission.

This small branch in Myanmar of 120 members has about 10 to 20

percent serving missions at any time.  They are so faithful.  It is just

beautiful.

Kelly tells the following about two of his interviews:

I had the opportunity to interview two beautiful young sisters about

missions. One actually has her call to serve in Thailand. I asked her

about her conversion and about her testimony. She teared up and gave

the most wonderful testimony. Seriously, I felt her testimony puts mine

to shame, and she doesn’t even have a Book of Mormon in her native

language. She has had to work her way through the English Book of

Mormon. She loves the Lord and I know he loves her. I met with a

second sister that will put in her mission papers in a couple of months.

In her humble and quiet voice, using English the best she could, she

testified to me with unbelievable power and emotion. She told me

about the problems she has a member. She is supposed to go to school

Sunday. She told me she got brave and went and told her teacher that

she really needed to go to church on Sunday. Her teacher, a staunch

Buddhist, made fun of her and told her to quit going to her Christian

church. This dear young sister was crying as she told me of this

experience and how her teacher wouldn’t listen and how she tried to

make her feel. But this 18 year old girl bore testimony to her teacher

and stood for her beliefs. I’m serious when I say I came out these two

interviews a better person. To listen to these two sisters bear testimony

about Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and His Church was an experience I

will never forget.

Kelly did a Melchizedek priesthood advancement interview for a man in

the branch.  He then asked Kelly to ordain him an Elder. He said after,

now I can bless my family because I have this priesthood.

We met Sister Mon’s sister.  Sister Mon is the missionary from

Myanmar that we met in the MTC in Provo.  She finally got her visa and

is serving here in Thailand now.  She is a wonderful missionary.

We met Carly Schaelling’s companion, Teresa.  She is a darling girl that

lives in Myanmar.  She knew all about Jace and us.  They served

together in Australia.  She and Ruth, the Relief Society President came

to dinner with the Elders and us and the Sipples at the Petts home.

Sister Sipple I have to say, reminds me so much of Aunt Rena.  She

looks like her, and sounds like her.  I just love her.  She is so kind and

hugs everyone at church.  They all love her.  Sister Pett is a sweetheart.

She cooks for the missionaries every Sunday.  It was her birthday when

we were there and she spent it preparing to feed everyone else.  I did

help though with dinner preparations and it was fun to visit with her.

We caught our flight home right after dinner.

We picked up a new missionary named Elder Joyem.  He had the

biggest smile on his face and I think he still does.  He is so happy and

excited to serve in Thailand where he is from.  He was at the MTC in the

Philippines.

We have our 2nd transfer meeting this Thursday.  You can already feel

the excitement of the missionaries.  They love transfer day.  We are

losing 11 missionaries and receiving 8 this week.  Elder Wolfley, our

assistant is going home.  He is an amazing missionary and teacher and

all the missionaries love him.  We will miss him.  I need to feed 20

missionaries Wednesday night in our home.  The good news is that they

eat anything and everything and don’t complain.

We had a conference here in Bangkok with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.

You probably remember that he set Kelly apart as a Mission President.

He is the kindest and most down-to-earth and approachable man.

Before the missionary meeting he sat with Kelly and me on the sofa in

the foyer of the church. He rubbed Kelly’s back, then put his arm clear

around Kelly and started patting me on the shoulder as he questioned

us about how we were doing.  He is without question an Apostle of the

Lord.  He never has a note but just speaks as the spirit directs. On

Saturday we had a missionary meeting with Elder Holland.  He shook

every missionary’s hand.  He had us bear our testimonies before he

spoke to the missionaries.  I was ok because it was all in English in that

meeting.  Sunday at the Bangkok Conference was a different story.

When we arrived we took our seats on the stage not knowing what the

program was to be.  During the meeting, Elder Woo indicated that Elder

Holland wanted Kelly to share a short testimony along with two

members from the audience.  I’m ashamed to admit it but I was so

relieved I wasn’t one of them.  I sat back thinking I might just enjoy this

whole meeting now.  When Kelly got up to bear his testimony, Elder

Holland jumped up and came over to where I was sitting and said come

on now bear your testimony and don’t worry he (Kelly) can translate for

you.  I was so taken off guard that I didn’t know exactly what he said.  I

stood there for a minute wondering if I dared bear my testimony in

Thai.  (consider that there were over 2000 Thai members in the

audience).  Luckily Kelly was right there beside me and said just bear

your testimony in Thai. I did and regardless of how poor my Thai is the

members were just happy that I tried to speak in their language.  Most

of the missionaries were happy and said they were proud of me.   Kelly

is getting emails from members saying We love you President Johnson.

They love that he was a missionary here when he was younger and that

he has come back again.  They love that he stops and talks to members

all the time and that he speaks Thai.  There were so many great talks on

Sunday and Elder Holland was marvelous.  The members love him.  I

hope you saw the pictures.  He is so passionate about the gospel.  We

were able to eat lunch with him after the conference.  He was so fun.

Dad sat right next to him and I was across the table from him.  He said

across the table, “Sister Johnson I thought your Thai was impeccable.”  I

was thrilled even though I’m aware that he doesn’t speak Thai at all.

What a great man!!  When he was leaving for the airport he shook

everyone’s hands but he hugged Kelly and then he hugged me.  He told

us he loved us.  Pretty much the greatest day ever!  We went to the

church close by and visited with the missionaries and members after.

Dad did interviews and it was funny how many missionaries were trying

to corner us and ask us if we could tell them anything about transfers.

It was getting out of hand in a funny way so Kelly said, “Sister Johnson,

you tell them”.  So I said, “Elder can you keep a secret?”  He said, “Yes I

can.”  I said, “So can I”.  It works like a charm every time.

We love the missionaries so much.  The more we get to know each of

them the happier we are that we were blessed to come to Thailand.

The very best serve here.

A side note…Bangkok has had a bomb explode on Sukhumvit about a

mile from where we live, near a famous shrine in a heavy tourist area.

As of right now there are 18 deaths and 120 wounded.   All of our

missionaries are safe and accounted for and in for the night.  We are

fine and don’t want anyone to worry.  All the parents have been

notified.  We will know more tomorrow.  It is midnight here now on

Monday.  I am sure Heavenly Father will continue to bless us.  I know

that he truly is the giver of the best gifts.  He has certainly blessed my

life in so many ways.  I love Him.  It is a privilege to serve in a small way

here for 3 years.

We love all of you.  You are our favorites!!!  You’re in our prayers daily.

Love, Mom and Dad ( Gwandma and Poppa)