January 11, 2010
Greetings from Khon Kaen! We are here because we are going to be having Zone Conference tomorrow. Today we will be interview by President Smith. We will stay the night in a hotel, have Zone Conference tomorrow and then return home around 8 p.m. It was about a three hour ride here. We also managed to find ourselves picking up the Elders in one of Elder Shill's old areas, Gumphawapi. That's also where Brother Sakhaa is from. It's really a small town. We drove up and saw the one and only 7-11 swarmed with pedal-cabs (three wheeled cars that are really common to get around here but we actually don't use them that often) and with lots of people shopping. Gumphawapi is really quite out there but it was fun to see it and think back on what Elder Shill told me about it. Right now it has two Thai elders there.
It's been another good week here in Nongkhai. I can tell it's starting to finally heat back up again after a nice long spell of cool weather, but it did rain earlier this week. It was picturesque that day - there was a light mist of fog over the rooftops of the city. It was really pretty. We saw some great things this week as we do always.
This week we had a chance to see Khaeg (which means guest or Arab in Thai). He's doing really well. This was the first time I actually taught him. He had a stroke earlier this year and so he has a hard time walking. But he faithfully reads the Book of Mormon and goes to Church. He was sharing with us his feelings about prayer and how he knows that Heavenly Father listens to his prayers as he gains his strength back and feels his spirit refreshed at Church. He's from the South and actually is Muslim but we gained permission to teach him. When he was sharing about his physical ailment and how it has brought him to a belief in God, I thought of the song Amazing Grace for some reason "I once was blind but now I see." I have often seen how a physical impairment can bring some of the greatest faith. Often the physical impairment causes us to reflect on the spiritual nature of our lives and ponder those things which are of more importance.
We also saw Jid, who is an investigator who has been taught everything with her husband Yo, another investigator, but has yet to come to church since I have been here. They were dropped because they went out of town before I was here but then picked back up by Elder Peterson. Jid has faith in God and in the Gospel but we are still working to get them to Church. The problem is that Jid and Yo only have one car and live about 12 kilometers from the Church, so transportation is definitely an issue. But she expressed how she loves reading the Book of Mormon and loves to pray to God. I think she has faith to press forward but the issue of Church will present some problems. I have yet to meet Yo.
This week we also met Jack and Awhm. They knew the first missionary from here, Elder Thiraphong, who is now serving in Chiang Mai but came back to NongKhai for a time due to his mother's illness. She has a tumor on her brain. Jack and Awhm have desire to see how the Gospel can help them but don't really have the time to commit yet. He shared that one of his triplets was ill and that the one thing he wanted in this life was for his child to be better. It was rather touching to see the love of parents. It's a universal theme.
And for another great happening, we saw Brother Somluck's wife, Jiab another two times this week. She is really doing great. She faithfully attends Church is praying often and is starting to get more into the scriptures. She also has a deep understanding and desire to be baptized. She has expressed how she feels different since she has started learning with the Elders. We rescheduled a baptismal date with her for the 21st of February. She also brought her son from her previous marriage and he has expressed a desire to be baptized as of yesterday! His name is Nice, pronounced more like Nay. He's 12 years old. Jiab is doing great and I can't wait for the day when she gets baptized. To see the entire family of Brother Somluck in the Church will be a great thing. They will be such an asset to the branch.
Sundays we spend most of our time at the Church while Elder Peterson, being the champ that he is, spends his time figuring out everything for the Branch. He's so dedicated and does a great job. He was told when he was made the Branch president to work himself out of a job and that he will DEFINATELY do. He has worked to establish everything for a smooth transition to a Thai Branch President, which is ultimately the goal across Thailand. He's a great companion! As of right now, Thailand now only has about three places that have missionary branch presidents, Surin and Buriram (both of which are close to Cambodia) and Nongkhai.
Lessons from the week- Faith can be built as we experience trials. Life is often very difficult, but as we experience the trials that come from mortal existence, we often find the deepest trust and faith in God. This trust and faith will carry us through the harder days and through the times of frustration. Another lesson- listening carefully is a skill that we all must truly work on our entire lives! I have noticed that listening is something that is very important especially when it's not your own language. If you truly listen, you will actually feel someone's soul rather than the words that are coming from their mouth. It doesn't really matter what language we speak or what cultural background we are from, in the end we are all children of God who have the same needs. We all desire to feel loved and to feel valued. As we truly listen with our hearts, not just our ears, even if we don't understand every word we hear, we will see the power of words and the power of our influence.
Another valuable lesson: Patience is something that when developed will help us everyday! Patience brings us comfort, peace and love for those we work with and serve. As we learn that we are all human with imperfections and flaws, we come to realize that we are all in this together. Patience will build our faith and help us to feel of the love of God. Patience and understanding are the key to resolving conflict and avoiding offense. As men, we often feel that our way is the right way. In the end, however, when we put ourselves in other's shoes, we see the variety of experiences and ways that others think and come to realize how valuable working together is. Patience with ourselves, however, might be the most valuable thing of all. Often we become so frustrated with our imperfections that we miss the mark and fail to see that the atonement doesn't just apply to those around us, it applies to us too. Brother Sakhaa taught us once that we need to stop thinking that the atonement can help everyone except for me. We need to start thinking about how the atonement can help us and then how we can in turn help others. I have seen that time and time again in the lives of members, other missionaries, and myself. When we realize that Christ is waiting with open arms to receive us and He stands ready to receive us, we will realize that the atonement will and does help us.
And Thailand continues to be great. From the days where we mostly hear Laotian being spoken around us, to the street venders selling their wares, to the most delicious khaaw man gai thawd that I have ever had, Nongkhai's environment is great. And sacrament meeting is an experience with so few members. The songs are sung softly with so few people but that doesn't mean that they aren't song with joy. It's pretty amazing to think that here, in the middle of Northeastern Thailand there are saints who are striving on the path that leads back to God. They may be few in number, but that doesn't diminish their contribution. They sacrifice for the Gospel. (They also serve in many callings!) I love the Thai saints. They truly are the children of God. I think when we sacrifice the comforts of home and go out to serve, whether it be in Thailand or in Idaho, in Africa or in Argentina, our hearts expand and we realize the true meaning of love. I didn't know how much I could love a culture, a people, a way of life before I came to Thailand. I am so grateful for them. They teach me everyday, more than just language, but the importance of the eternal things. I love Thailand and its people!
We just got a new ward mission leader, Brother At replaced the famous Brother Arm whom every missionary loves but I have yet to meet since he is in Bangkok doing an internship. He is the Sunday School president but will be a great ward mission leader along with our great ward missionaries. Elder Peterson got the missionary program working with the ward here really strong. Let's hope that strong tradition continues long into the future!
I pray for you daily. I know your prayers help. You are all wonderful and I love your support. Thanks for all you do. God be with you till we speak again!