Tuesday, November 17, 2015

October 30, 2015

Greetings From Thailand!
Sorry we haven’t sent a letter in a while.  It has been quite the month.  We have traveled all over Thailand, to Laos, and to two District Conferences. We also fit in our mission tour with Elder and Sister Funk.
Our quick trip to Laos was originally scheduled to be with Elder Funk but he needed to remain in Hong Kong to meet with Elder Gong, who was called as one of the Seven Presidents of the Seventy. Elder Funk will replace Elder Gong as the Asia Area President.
We thought about postponing our trip to Laos but couldn’t bring ourselves to do it.  We had Yongtee’s mission call in hand and promised to bring it when we came.  He is the only member in his family.  His parents left him and his siblings and moved to America.  He has taken care of his siblings and is a faithful member of the Church.  He had many young single adults at the church as well as his siblings, and the 6 Laos Elders.  He is very talented and can speak several languages, including English.  He sings beautifully and his smile just lights up the room.  The entire group cheered when we walked in the door, with his call letter in hand. He is very proud and excited to serve in Australia, English speaking.
We also delivered a mission call to a young sister in the Vientiane branch.  (Nickname Sister Pookie)  She had opened her call via skype from our home in Bangkok to the Church in Vientiane. She was anxiously awaiting her actual call so she could read it over and over again.  She will be serving in a different mission in Australia.  The members in Laos are so faithful!  They have 2 branches in Laos.  Members from Vientiane Branch 2 travel 2 ½ hours each way to attend Church.  They put 28 people each van that should only hold 12 comfortably.  They are wonderful member missionaries and continue to find people for the missionaries to teach.
We love the Elders in Laos.  They are amazing and talented missionaries.  They really love the members and serve the people of Laos every day.  They aren’t allowed to openly contact and find but they teach English classes and get many referrals through serving in the community.  They baptize, teach English and Mission Prep, play a little piano for sacrament meeting, have great activities and Family Home Evenings and support the leaders in both branches.  They are great examples and we continue to have young women and men from Laos apply to serve missions because of their examples.
Our mission tour was a wonderful experience. Upon returning from Laos, we immediately picked up Elder and Sister Funk from the airport.  They arrived from Hong Kong where Elder Funk (Of the Seventy) serves in the Asia Area Presidency.  Both Elder Funk and Sister Funk are very personable and served as Mission President and wife in India prior to this call.  They could relate to the traffic jams and travel difficulties we face here and didn’t look too nervous when we used the GPS to travel home from the airport.  We took them to lunch at a Thai restaurant.  They love Thai food and handle spicy Thai food easily after serving in India and eating spicy Indian curry.
We had 12 Young Single Adults from Asoke over on Monday evening for Family Home Evening.  We had the best time ever!  They are amazing!  They have such beautiful testimonies and range from being a member for several years to being baptized 4 months ago.  Some are the only members in their families.  One young man lived in England for a time.  His English is excellent and it is fun to hear a Thai brother speak with a British accent.   One of the brothers is a returned missionary also. We had a lesson and then we played the now famous Cat and Mouse game.  I remember playing that at home with you kids and all your friends.  I loved playing it with Ethan and Aaliyah and Annee and Ellee and Dodge and Linen and Sailor and Scout before we left for our mission.  Dad would say, “I’m a hungry cat and want to eat some mice” then the kids would scream and laugh and always pull their mouse out just in case he rolled a six or a one on the dice.  So fun.  Now we have played it at another Family Home Evening in Lampang.  The adults loved it as much as the young members.  I think the game is going viral.  Ha.  We had dessert and they loved the treats. I was able to continue visiting with the Young Single Adults while Kelly took the Funk’s back to their hotel.  I got my guitar out and they sang I am a Child Of God.  Kelly and I love it when the Thai’s sing Nearer My God To Thee.  It sounds so reverent and amazing in Thai.  Then I made them divide the leftover treats and they were so happy to take them home.  One sister said she “has never been so happy”.  She loved coming for Family Home Evening and being able to talk about the church and to be with members and have fun.  They just don’t get that at home being the only member in their family.  I just love them all.  Their faith is so strong and they want to be so obedient. 
Tuesday we had MLC as part of the mission tour.  That is a new addition to mission tours.  I loved it.  I learned so much from Elder Funk and Kelly and the missionaries.  Our Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders are incredible.  They have the best comments which you know come from their daily personal studies.  I was able to share my conversion story and my testimony on prayer.  I just love my missionaries still.  I will always be grateful to them for teaching me that I have a Heavenly Father that loves me and has always loved me and that I didn’t need to earn that love, He simply loves me and that I could pray and talk with Him and He would listen.
Obviously being taught that and then doing that and believing that changed my life.  So grateful the message is the same today for everyone.
We took our MLC  missionaries and the Funks on the subway to Lumphini Park where Thailand was dedicated for missionary work.  We read the dedicatory prayer together and had personal dedication time and then returned to the mission office for lunch and the second session of MLC.
The following day we started zone conferences with the mission tour.  Kelly and I spoke on Obedience.   I talked about selective obedience using Jess our dog as an example of selective obedience.  I told how Jess was always more obedient to Kelly than any other member of the family or if you had a treat she was very obedient.  Or how when she was on the trail of a bird it was harder for her to be obedient because she was so excited.  Then I asked the missionaries how many of us show unwavering obedience to everything, with the exception of one commandment or rule?   Then we read from the missionary handbook word for word what it said about socks, about music, about what time to get up in the morning and what time to finish Pday and begin to work.  Some of the rules in the handbook may seem insignificant or not make sense but that is not the issue, the issue is that a rule is a rule and if you want to be strictly obedient you need to keep all the rules not pick and choose.  You are either 100 percent obedient or you are not obedient.   I told the story of Arabian horses and how they are trained and selected.  Those that follow the masters call instead of heading for the water after being kept from it for a time are chosen for the most important work and those that pay no heed and head straight to the water are chosen for less important work.  I compared it to If God’s greatest work is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man then as missionaries the most important work we can do is to share the gospel with all of Heavenly Father’s children.  How sad it would be that when the Master calls and we have not disciplined ourselves to be exactly and strictly obedient that we are only suitable for a less important work.    I had them read in the missionary handbook the page where it tells what is expected of them when called as a missionary and every time it said  *you*  I had them say *I*  and take ownership of their mission and their accountability to follow the rules with exactness.  The last part reads:  When *I* accepted *My* call, *I* promised to live by these standards.  *I* am accountable to the Lord and to the leaders of the church for how well *I* honor this promise.
Kelly gave the definition of the word Always.  He said Always=Always (leaving zero room for words like unless, or except, or if or but).  He gave a great object lesson.
Kelly: I showed the missionaries a bottle of Iceland Spring Water. This water comes from Iceland and is considered perfectly clean. It is filtered through rocks for thousands of feet, removing all impurities. I called up a missionary and asked if they would drink the water. Of course they would agree to drink the water. I then had a bottle of canal water from Bangkok. The canals here are incredibly dirty. The water is actually black. The water is so polluted that it is black. The water is full of garbage and waste. The APs were able to retrieve a bottle of this filthy water for me. I then told them that the Iceland Spring Water had 500 ml of water in it. I then took 5 ml of the filthy canal water and put it in the bottle of perfectly clean water. I emphasized that it was only one percent imperfect now. I then asked the missionary to drink the water in the bottle. There was no way they would drink the water, with even just 1 % of that filthy water in it. I tied this to obedience. Even 1% disobedience taints the entire effort to be obedient. We have to strive for strict obedience.
We held zone conferences in Bangkok, Khon Kaen, and Chiang Mai.
We ended the mission tour with the Chiang Mai District Conference in Chiang Mai.  (Stake Conference for branches).  Sister Funk and I did an Auxiliary Training Meeting for the Sisters on Saturday evening before the adult session of conference.  We split up and went on visits before we started the training.  I was able to go with the Young Women’s president in Chiang Mai and two young women.  We went to visit some of the young women.  It was a great experience to see them with their personal progress books and know that they are setting personal goals and strengthening their Faith and preparing to be worthy to enter the temple.  They loved my young women’s medallion (Thank you Bishop Vincent) and wanted to earn theirs and said they would wear it all the time like I do.  When I was training in the Young Women’s auxiliary I had the young women there stand and repeat the young women’s theme.  It was moving.  They stood and were holding hands and had arms around each other and said it so beautifully and with heartfelt meaning pausing after each value with big smiles on their faces.  Oh the church is true everywhere!!  We truly are all daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us and we love Him.  I love that I get to be with so many sister missionaries or I would miss Young Women’s way too much. 
We went with the Funks to visit Northern Chiang Mai University.  They loved that Jeremy had been there to meet them and to do so much good with his humanitarian project from Weber State University.  They talked to us about having our missionaries teach English at the University once a week.  They took us to dinner after the meeting to the most beautiful outdoor restaurant.  They had beautiful orchids everywhere and ponds and waterfalls.  Sunday the faculty member (Wiwat) that knows Jeremy showed up at church in the Chiang Mai branch with his wife.  They are both members and would love to have the missionaries at the university. He is so kind and wanted to have our pictures taken together.  Between the university visit and dinner and church we took close to a million pictures.  Ha
Sunday night we said goodbye to Elder and Sister Funk as they departed for Hong Kong.  We loved the mission tour.  It was a very uplifting and testimony building week.
We love spending time with the missionaries.  That is always the highlight of our time here.
Kelly and I stayed in Chiang Mai so Kelly could interview the missionaries.  We were able to spend part of the day with the missionaries for P-day.  We took two songtows (one for the sister missionaries and me and one for the Elders and Kelly) to Doi Suthep. This is a Buddhist temple on top of a high mountain above Chiang Mai. There are at least a 1,000 steps leading up the mountain to the temple on top. It was a beautiful day and even more enjoyable to have a very wonderful but very busy week and a half behind us.  We came back in time to do Family Home Evening with the Young Single Adults in Chiang Mai.  Kelly even did a few interviews for prospective missionaries and Church leaders in the home we were visiting.  We celebrated birthdays including Sister Morgan’s one of our Chiang Mai missionaries.  We left for the airport the next morning to return to Bangkok.
That same evening we had a banquet for the public opinion leaders.  They were able to take a tour of the Stake Center and the baptismal font and to get a tour of the family history center.  They were very impressed and always comment on how much good the church does for the people in Thailand and the world.  They love all that the church offers for the youth to have high moral standards and values.  A funny note:  The dinner was catered by a Mexican restaurant.  The people seated at our table did not know how to eat it.  It was a soft shell taco that was too big to close and pick up.  Kelly was trying to show one man how to dip the tortilla chips in the salsa and eat it.  Maybe you had to be there.  We had some of our sister missionaries that were the entertainment for the evening.  They played piano and flute to primary songs.  It was really lovely.  We showed a film of the humanitarian work the church does and the purpose of the Bishop’s storehouse and Deseret Industries and Latter-Day Saint Charities that do the water projects, wheelchair, eye surgery, infant resuscitation programs and English Classes. 
On Friday, we drove to Lopburi to interview the missionaries there.  They are wonderful missionaries.  You could tell that they were happy and loved missionary work the minute we walked in.  They are so good to each other also.  Elder Reid is an amazing self taught piano player.  He can play anything with any emotion you choose.  While we waited for Kelly to interview each missionary he was asked to play Once There Was A Snowman by Elder Neal.
Elder Neal said, “Play the absolutely saddest rendition of that song.”  Elder Reid sure did.  It was so melancholy that you almost wanted to cry.  Then I said, “Elder Reid could you please hurry and play the happiest rendition of
that song to cheer us up?”  He played the most lifting and happy version you could imagine.  It was all I could do not to skip around the room.  AMAZING!  He is so good at using his special gift and talent to bless the members in Thailand.  He can play any instrument that you don’t blow into he said.  I believe him.
We also were able to meet and interview Elder Hunt there.  His parents brought him to our farewell at home.  His mom knew Kelly from when he served here as a missionary.  She had a letter in a book from 33 years ago that Kelly had written her thanking her for helping him with street boards and missionary work.  This Elder is so happy to be here serving in Thailand.  He grins constantly and everyone loves him already.  We stayed overnight and then the next morning we drove into downtown Lopburi to be part of monkey city which was like being in the movie “Planet of the Apes”.  Unbelievable hardly  describes it.  The monkeys live in some of the ancient ruins in Lopburi and have overrun any abandoned building near the ruins in the middle of the city. As we walked through the area, monkeys would approach and would jump on us, climbing up to our shoulders and one even perched on top of Kelly’s head. We fed them peanuts. It was an interesting experience to be walking right among the monkeys and interacting with them. The baby monkeys were the cutest.
We then drove to Ayutthaya where we were able to see some beautiful ruins and a really neat Buddha head that had fallen and over the years had become encased in the roots of a tree.  It was quite spectacular really.  We saw Elephants  walking down the road which was like …wow!
On Monday, we flew to Chiang Mai and rented a car and drove to Lampang.  The drive to Lampang was beautiful.  Green mountains and lush fields of trees and grass the whole way.  So different from Bangkok.  We were able to teach some new investigators with the missionaries. 
Kelly: I went to teach with Elder Parker and Elder Lindley. We went to the home of a less active couple. The husband was a former branch president. They were happy to receive us. We taught about Christ and the restoration. This home was out in the jungle. It was classic Thailand. The home had cement floors and walls, no carpet and limited furniture. It was hilarious after we taught. The elders were so nervous about running into a snake as we walked back to the car on the small dirt path.

I stayed with Sister Carrillo and Sister Remington at the church.  We taught a sweet sister that was getting baptized the next week.   We taught Joe and Ken (nick names for two Thai men).  They were so humble and really loved reading in the Book of Mormon .  Then we all met up at the church again and had Family Home Evening with some members of the branch.  This is where we played the cat and mouse game.  It was hilarious watching them anticipate getting caught and trapped under the lid.  Many would pull their mouse out before the dice landed.  It was so much fun.  I met two young sisters Tip and Ten.  They were 13 and 7.  They live with their father and the grandmother takes care of them.  Tip is a member and she brings her little sister to church with her every Monday night and activity night and Sundays.  It was all I could do not to take them home with us.     Kelly and I left the church with Elder Parker and Elder Lindley to teach a sister and her brother in law at his dentist office.
We stayed at a little bed and breakfast that only had two rooms for guests.  It had beautiful Teak Wood furniture and looked like the earlier Thai housing Kelly remembered from his mission.  They made us a special breakfast the next morning and watched us eat hoping to anticipate any little thing we might need.
Kelly: Terri didn’t want to eat some of the breakfast, but was too kind to want the cute cook to feel bad that we didn’t eat all the food. So, she sneakily was able to wrap the undesirable food items in a napkin and get it into her purse.
We met the missionaries at the church for personal study time and companionship study.  I loved learning from Sister Carrillo and Sister Remington.  They are so good at applying what they learn from the scriptures.  They have wonderful testimonies.  We had district meeting after studies.  Elder Parker had everyone prepared and it was an excellent district meeting.  We went to lunch with them after the meeting.  We had Som Tom which is a specialty there.  It was delicious and still one of my favorite things to eat in Thailand. 
We left and drove back to Chiang Mai.  Kelly was able to interview Sister Morgan, the only one he missed after the mission tour in Chiang Mai. Kelly then spent the evening planning and setting goals with the Chiang Mai District Presidency. 
On Sunday, we went to church in Bangbuathon. The church is located upstairs in a car dealership.  Once inside it is a beautiful building and looks very much like the sacrament room in our churches.  The members were so kind and we really enjoyed being there with them.  We both had to speak and then we stayed for the other meetings and then they wanted us to eat lunch with them.  We hurried back after for a missionary fireside we had to both speak at.  It was great to be with President Suchad at the fireside.  He is a great leader and excellent teacher.  We were happy to see Sister Hayes and Sister Burbank and to finally get a picture with Sister Hayes.  Her parents are Mission Presidents in Costa Rica.  We had MLC this week.  It was a great conference. 
I know we did things here in Bangkok but it is starting to blur because we were flying off to Udorn before we knew it.  We are just starting all the District and Stake Conferences.
We love Udorn!!  The people there are some of my favorites.  Sister Gaw and her mother Maa Phon and pretty much about every member there is wonderful.
This District Conference was under the direction of Elder Khunukum, an Area Seventy. Kelly called and set apart a new District Presidency and called the newly released District President, President Wonsegon to be his 2nd Counselor in the Mission Presidency.  He is an amazing teacher.  He teaches seminary and is wonderful with the missionaries.  They love him so they were very happy for his new calling.  The new District President will be great.  He is a very humble man. He is a returned missionary, as is his wife.  They have one son on a mission now and a 17 year old son who is preparing to serve.  His wife bore her testimony and said she had an overwhelming feeling when she met President Johnson weeks ago that a wonderful thing was going to happen in their family.  She will be a great support to her husband and the branch.
We were able to go on visits in the branch on Saturday before the Women’s auxiliary training and Priesthood session started.  I went with Maa Phon and Sister Khunakum and our sister missionary, Sister Hoffman.  She was to be my translator but we soon found out that the women we went to visit spoke Mong.  We did the best we could.  I held all the babies at the homes and shared scriptures on living after the manner of happiness.  All the sisters we visited were alone with their babies because their husbands left them.  This happens way too often here and it is heartbreaking.  The Thai babies are beyond beautiful.  I want to take them all home with me but know it is only a wish.  Two of the homes had the babies sleeping in baskets tied to ropes under porches outside.  The grandmother usually sat nearby pulling on the rope so the baby swung back and forth.  Maa Phon thought it was the funniest joke ever when she taught me a song the moms sing to their babies to get them to sleep as they swing.  It goes like this…Ding, ding, ding, ding.   Ding, ding, ding, ding.  And over and over again.  I learned it very quickly ha.  But the funny part was when Maa Phon said she didn’t have time to sing that song so she would just push the baby and give them a good swing and sing …Dings!  She laughed so hard pushing the baby I thought the baby might do a complete spin right over the top of the porch.  She made me sing it and then laughed even harder.  I’m not sure I still get how funny that seems to her but it was Maa Phon and I always laugh because she is so fun and energetic.  She does more member missionary work than anyone I have ever met.  She does not hold back either but just begs people to come to church and to be her friend.  I was able to teach piano lessons to a couple of wonderful young people in the branch.  The one young man (Brother Daft) can play We Thank Thee Oh God For A Prophet with intro perfectly now.  I made him learn Joy To The World to get ready for Christmas because it is the easiest one.
He was pretty happy and whenever I walked down the hall I could hear Joy To The World.  The sister was learning hymns from the simplified hymnbook hoping to play in the branch when Sister Gaw leaves for BYU in December.  They are all just terrific.  We really love it here and are so grateful we have this opportunity to serve with the missionaries and with these people that we have come to love.  We are looking forward to having Jalynn and Jace come in December.  Good thing time flies here so you should be here like tomorrow.  Grandkids we love you so much.  Children you are amazing and we are so proud of all you do and who you are.  Parents you are the best.  Thanks for your love and prayers.  Family we are excited for all the wonderful things happening in your lives.  (returning missionaries, marriages, school events, missionary service, and family highlights).  Friends, thanks for your support and for looking out for our children and for your many kind deeds.

We love you all,

Terri and Kelly