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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)