Monday, December 30, 2013

Chiang Mai Letter--December 30, 2013

Happy New Year's everyone!!! =D

So on Saturday night I got a very nice surprise. Two lovely packages :) THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!! =D I'm currently wearing some of my new jewelry and have much enjoyed the candy. :)  My companion finally got hers as well :)

So this week has been kind of crazy and not necessarily in the best of ways. Normally I wouldn't tell any of the less than pleasant parts of the mission but if I didn't tell you about them this week, I wouldn't really have much to say. So before I go into more depth, I would like to say that I really don't know who is right and who is wrong in this situation. I feel really stuck in the middle of a situation I would have rather avoided (and could have probably avoided if I was on my own). So yeah, please don't judge. :)

The interesting thing about new transfers is learning to work with the new missionaries that join the district. The mission is also changing how we work. Every night every companionship answers 5 questions, 
1. Did you invite a child of God to repent and be baptized today?
2. Did you invite children of God to repent and be baptized for two hours today?
3. Did you pray for specific miracles?
4. Did you ask for referrals?
5. Were you exactly obedient?

President Senior has asked us to try our best to answer yes to all 5 questions every night. Honestly, it's not hard at all. But, different companionships struggle with different things. My current companion doesn't care all that much about obedience. Timeliness isn't all that super important to her. Because of other experiences in her past, obedience is kind of like a four letter word. Let's just say that the elders don't really appreciate when our answer to the last question is, more often than not, no. And my companion doesn't really appreciate them breathing down her neck. And then there's me caught in the middle. But I know I am supposed to be here. I love obedience but I am also very understanding. My companion has said that Heavenly Father has always given her very patient companions. She and I get along soooooooo well. It is always fun and we are super super super open with each other. If there is something that bugs us, we voice that concern. It is an excellent companionship. So yeah, know that. She and I get along so very very well, honestly. But our district isn't exactly unified right now. Our district leader has been getting on our case a lot about exact obedience. And then Friday night was just super awkward with the zone leaders. 

We were at a member's house with the zone leaders and it was getting close to when we had to leave. In all honesty, we two were in no rush to leave because my companion loves these members very very very very very very much and one of the members' time with us is running out. We also thought that a car (it's called a red car--it's kind of like a public taxi) was going to pick us up (because a car dropped us off and that is usually how spending time with members works) so we weren't freaking out. Well, it turns out that there was no car coming but a member was going to take us missionaries home.  The elders were kind of freaking out about the time and I tried to calm them down by saying that yes, we wouldn't make it home by 9 (our curfew) but we would make it home by 9:30 (our curfew if we are teaching a lesson). One of the elders responded (kind of rudely) that this wasn't a lesson. I responded kind of sarcastically (but also kind of truthfully) and told him to start teaching. I realized while I was saying that, that that wasn't a smart idea. So I know me saying that was wrong. But then the elder kind of yelled at me. Well I guess it wasn't yelling, it was more like scolding in a mean way. He told me that I was wrong and to never take that attitude towards obedience ever again. By this time the member came up with the car. Problem: she has only been a member for two months and so doesn't really know all the missionary rules. She didn't realize that the elders need a responsible priesthood-holder with them. Situation: a small car that technically has 5 seats (but that's kind of too cozy) and 6 people that have to go. The elders weren't offering any solutions so my companion and I came up with one. The member would take the elders home and we would find another way home. The elders got in the car. That's the thing that really bugged me. Scolding me, fine. I shouldn't have said that. But elders taking the car home so they wouldn't break the rules while the sisters had to figure out another way to get home and break the rules bugged me so much. The member agreed to take the elders but the other members that were with us weren't very happy with the elders. They were exactly obedient, but at what cost? 

So yeah. But this is why I think it is important for me to be here. I am able to help my companion want to keep the rules. The elders' actions have made her want to keep the rules even less. I guess I make the rules less binding and evil. The elders are trying to chain us to the rules. They judge us based on the rules and against other missionaries. That literally is the worse feeling I have ever felt. I'm able to help my companion not hate obedience. The rules help us and are not binding chains. Every morning we are supposed to wake up at 6:30 sharp. I do. I have three options when it comes to my companion:
1. Let her wake up when she wants to (which is what I was doing for a while)
2. Turn on the light so that she can't sleep (a terrible idea because then we would have no companionship unity)
3. Talk to her in the morning so that she can't fall back asleep but we still have a good relationship (this is what I have been doing for the past couple days)
So even though this situation is really between her and the elders (and I guess me because we come as a packaged deal), I can play a part. So yeah. But the story isn't done yet. 

Saturday and Sunday we were exactly obedient. We had a lot of fun and were much happier than we had been for a while. Why? Because we also avoided the church building and the other missionaries. There have been other things that have happened that would take too long to tell you about. But whenever I am near any of the elders I feel super judged. I don't feel like they care or are trying to help us. I literally feel like dirt when I am near them. So my companion and I have avoided the church building (except when we have an appointment or church on Sunday) and just been outside working. 

So yeah, I feel like this situation is already starting to improve. The more obedient we are, the less often the elders can get on our case. The more we avoid the church building and them, the less we have to interact with the elders. I figure as we just give the situation some air, it will resolve itself and we can go back to working well with each other. But yeah, I feel like both parties are at fault. We need to work harder at obedience. The elders need to learn how to be loving and caring leaders who help those they work with and not just slave drivers that judge you. :) Okay, that was exaggerated. And they are still just boys too - 20 or 21 years of age. This is probably one of the biggest leadership positions they have ever been in. They have a lot of pressure on them to help those they work with. But still, they are doing it wrong. :) My last district leader once corrected me on something but he was super nice about it. I actually wanted to do better after that! These elders need to learn how to do that too. 

So yeah, the silver linings of the situation (because every situation, no matter how bad, has some silver linings) are:
  • my companion and I are so much closer because we have had to lean on each other
  • we are out working more
  • I know how to be a better leader in the future
  • I can relate to less actives more. I know how it feels to be offended by someone at church. I understand now. Beforehand the church is a house of love but now it just feels like a house of judgement and scolding. I understand how it feels to be judged and looked down upon by people that were supposed to help you. I understand. Yesterday I honestly didn't want to go to church. I didn't want to see the Elders. But obviously I went anyway because I'm better than that, it's church - you have to go, and church isn't about the people but about renewing your covenants and worshiping God. So yeah. Now I can help less actives more because I understand now. This is excellent because my companion and I want to work with less actives a lot this transfer. 
  • I have figured out more of who God is to me. He loves us very very very much. More than we can know. He doesn't judge us like humans do. He wants us to improve and he wants us to obey. He is sad when we don't but He never stops loving us. He corrects us lovingly. He helps us. He only wants what is best for us. 
So yeah. Don't be angry. I'm fine. I fell down but I'm getting back up again. I'm good. My companion and I are good. We have a lot of really cool plans for this transfer. We are excited to see a lot of miracles and a lot of growth. We have a plan to improve the relationship with the elders (work hard, answer yes to all 5 questions, and avoid them until it's no longer uncomfortable to be near them). Some amazing things are about to happen in Chiang Mai, we know it. It is amazing how right now, my companion and I can just work. Neither of us are training. Neither of us are new to the area. We can just work and we are so excited. :) 

So yeah. Um...that's has basically been my life this past week with normal working thrown in too. The work is moving forward faster than it ever has before. :)

I actually don't know what else to tell you because that has been such a big thing this week. I know God loves us. Very much. I have seen many miracles throughout my mission - some big and some small. God has given us a lot of tender mercies this past week, every day. He is ever mindful of us. We know what we are going through but, like the waves and wind that pushed the Jaredite barges to the promised land (I read about that this morning), He knows our trials will bring us higher and make us stronger. I felt so much peace after I realized that the situation with the elders will help me relate to less actives better. 

So yeah. Wow I say that phrase a lot. Sorry. Um...Yeah...that's all I got for right now. 

I LOVE YOU ALL VERY VERY MUCH!!! =D we (we two and the other two sisters) might be going to the zoo today. Not positive yet. But today will be fun. :) 

~a very peaceful Sister Slaugh

PS: Funny moment from Tuesday English class. The pronunciation section was about F and V. My companion and I were discussing what homework to give. I suggested that we have them watch a youtube video, anyone, and write down at least 5 V and F-words that they hear. And then I realized what I said and quickly rephrased my idea. 

And then...during class... we were discussing the word on and it's different uses. I couldn't figure out a lot of examples so if I could think of one, I said it. Sometimes I didn't think first: "Put your clothes on" yup. That was awkward. Luckily there weren't a lot of people that week (like 2 in our class) and they were both members. But yeah...


PPS: (In answer to Barbie's question regarding Thai New Year's traditions) I actually don't know if there are any traditions. Here in Chiang Mai are a lot of farangs so we are expecting a lot of people drinking that night. So we are returning home early that night =D

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Chiang Mai Letter--December 16, 2013

I feel like my subject lines (this one was "is December seriously halfway done?") are usually me shocked at the calendar date. But seriously, where did December go? And November and October and September?
So first things first: Christmas! P-day next week will not be on Monday like usual but will be on Wednesday (aka the 25th). So...skyping. I'll leave that to you family members to figure out what time you want to skype. I can do it as early at 8 or 9am (Thailand time) or can do it later too. Whatever you would like. My only request is that someone make me a skype login because I forgot mine. Haha oops :) Yay this will be fun! =D
...I just realized I have no way of getting in touch with you before the 25th's just say I'll get on the computer around 9 or 10am. Wow that's not specific. Um... I'll try to get on as earlier as I can. Yeah, that'll work. :)
This past week as been really interesting. My companion has been sick so we haven't been able to go inviting for the entire week (expect for one hour on Wednesday). Instead, the Lord has given us appointments during those hours. There was one day when an investigator and an less active called us to schedule appointments - that's sooooooooooo rare! And that happened another day as well. We just couldn't go out contacting but we had the desire to do God's work and so He provided a way. He can and will take whatsoever we can give Him and He will make miracles happen. AndSunday! Sunday was soooooo amazing! We had so many investigators at church that we were not planning on. Investigators brought friends, members invited former investigators, and another former investigator just randomly showed up and said she wanted to learn. What. None of that had anything to do with us. God just loves making miracles happen when we have the faith and the desire for them to happen.
And then Sunday night was super cool too! Sundays are always super long days and by the end we just want to go home because we are exhausted. And this Sunday we had choir for 3 long long hours. But at 8 we had an appointment with a member that has been really struggling. His name is Tu and is 21 years old. We love him to death. He has great church attendance because of his calling (secretary and choir director) but he has told us many times that when it comes to scripture reading or praying, he just doesn't. He hasn't read the scriptures in almost a year. So we made this appointment with him but he kept on trying to convince us to cancel - it's so late, you're tired, it's not worth it, etc. But we kept at it. We basically had a little testimony meeting of us, him, and four other members that are his friends. It was sooooo cool! Our original plan was just to read together to help him get started but before we could start, he asked me if I knew the Book of Mormon was true and if I did, how. I gave my answer but I didn't feel like I could really express myself like I would like to. Then we all went around the room, sharing how everyone knew the Book of Mormon was true. When it got to him, he said he didn't. He wasn't even sure that he believed it was true. He told us a lot of other things too. He never reads and hardly prays. He doesn't feel anything. He is always stressed and doesn't have any motivation to read. At the core of the issue, the 6 friends that introduced him to this gospel and helped him when he first became a member have all fallen away. They want nothing to do with the church. That hurt him soooo much.
And it was at that point that the Spirit really kicked in, at least that's when I felt it really strongly. In 1 Nephi 7:15, Nephi says that the Spirit constrained him to speak unto his brothers. I now think I understand what Nephi was saying. The words I was saying weren't mine. The experiences and the belief was but the words and power that accompanied them were not. There was a point where I was kinda scared that I was being too bold but, like Nephi, I felt constrained to speak. Oh my goodness, family, I can't even explain it. It is so amazing! To feel the Spirit work through you is so utterly amazing. The Spirit was so strong when all three of us (my companions and I) were bearing powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon and of the Plan of Salvation. We opened our mouths and the Lord was able to make miracles happen through three sisters, young in age and young in experience. My trainer told me that she loves calling people to repentance and now I totally understand her. Not repentance like "You're a sinner. Repent or go to he..." but repentance like "Come unto Christ and become perfected in Him. Draw closer to the Savior and partake of His love." Things like that. Like bearing powerful testimony to Brother Tu about the power of the Book of Mormon and inviting him to start anew and feast upon its pages. He called us this morning thanking us. He said he's going to start reading again. He said last night really helped. Yeah power of the Holy Ghost!! =D I love being a missionary soooooo much!
So I guess I should kinda explain what's going to happen this week in my life.
Today we are going to a 3D art museum with one of our beloved members (she is basically our mom in Chiang Mai). Hopefully we are also going to be told whether we are moving or not.
Tomorrow is going to interesting. We have our final two presentations to the college students so that will last from 8am-1pm. And then we have to practice our skit for the branch Christmas party (it's about the legend of Santa Claus). And somewhere in there will be lunch...we think. And then probably packing because one of us is probably moving (my two companions have both been together for the last two transfers so there definitely going to be some kind of change). And then there is a branch Christmas party at 6 or 7. And then that night we have to leave for Bangkok. Wednesday: Transfer meeting. We will get into Bangkok that morning. Then have transfers. And then go back to Chiang Mai. Yay long bus rides... but hey, I should be getting a new companion! :)
Thursday: Get back to Chiang Mai in the really early morning and sleep. That night we have the District Christmas party (at 7) and we are singing in the choir.
Friday: The District Christmas party is two days long so we are doing that again.
Saturday: working. But President Senior is also coming up and our zone is having a little Christmas party with him and Sister Senior.
Sunday: same as Saturday. Sister Rii and her daughter are getting baptized!!!! =D
Monday: a normal work day...we think.
Tuesday (Christmas Eve): still have English class
Wednesday: P-day and talking to you guys :) A member invited us over for Christmas dinner so we probably will do that.
And that will be my life until I next talk to you.
Sister Abigail Lee Slaugh
Thailand Bangkok Mission
1645/6 New Phetchburi Road
Makkasan, Ratchathewi
Bangkok 10400

Chiang Mai Picture--December 9, 2013

Sister Slaugh says, "us and Sister Rii"

Chiang Mai Letter--December 9, 2013

If you are curious about the subject line (which was "Mormon girls ... how ridiculous"), that's what a farang said to us this week while inviting. What made it funnier was that he was British with crooked teeth and nose. It was just really funny.
So this week. I felt like it went by super quickly. Everyone keeps on reminding me that this is my last week as a teenager. I refuse to admit it. It's not happening :)
I feel like there really isn't much to tell about this week. Just a normal week in missionary life. what are the highlights?
We are teaching this absolutely amazing fantastic investigator. Her name is Sister Rii. She is literally so amazing. The Elders found her contacting but she wasn't in their area so they gave her to me (technically us but it's my area). She literally is so prepared by God. We asked her what she thought faith was. "I think it is believing in something that you can't really see but is true." Well hello there Alma. Nice to meet you. :) She woke up at 5am once to read the Book of Mormon. She's already done with 1 Ne. We asked her if she believed it was true. She said she knew it was more than true. She couldn't describe it. When we taught her about keeping the Sabbath day holy, she immediately said that she had faith that God would help her find a way to keep that commandment. She is so absolutely amazing in every way. Her 10 year-old wants to get baptized too. Oh my goodness family, Sister Rii is sooo amazing.
It is so evident to me that God is really hastening His work. The people He is bringing into His church right now in Thailand are so prepared and so amazing. They will not be passive members. On Saturday, Benz and Joy got baptized (the Elders were teaching them). Benz is my age and really wants to be a missionary. Last month, Ford (investigator of the other sisters) got baptized. He is 16 but really wants to help teach and really wants to be a missionary too. Same with R, another investigator that got baptized this month. All over Thailand, God is leading His children to the church. He is bringing the people that will help His church grow the best. It is sooooooo cool! It's such a blessing to be a part of this work. So amazing in every way.
On Thursday, we three sisters translated for a young single adult activity (district-wide). It was fun but kinda weird. Most of the YSA (there is about 20 of them) can understand English pretty well. They were helping us translate for them. The awkward part was the topic matter: table and eating etiquette, dancing, and being a gentlemen. I can teach about the restoration, the great apostasy, the plan of salvation, faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end, priesthood, temple marriage, and all that other good stuff. But really? They ask us to translate about table etiquette. I wish we had taken a picture. The three of us were sitting down at a table with a couple dictionaries in front of us trying to translate as best as we could. It was a lot like charades. It was really fun and really good. I love those people so much. They are a lot of fun. else...
Transfers is the 19th. The District Christmas party is the 19th and 20th (yes two days. We party hard here in Thailand). We may make it back for the 20th. It's just really hard because everyone was counting on us missionaries being there to help with the choir. But... I really really want to get my new companion. I love Sister Ng and Norrell soooo much and I love their branch but I am excited to be able to just care for my branch again. Taking care for two branches is a lot of work and I feel like I could do a better job if I only had one branch again. :)
Um... a couple of weeks ago Sister Senior (President's wife) gave us some more bike safety stuff. We now have reflective vests to wear at night. Yeah...they're kinda awkward but at least we're safe, right? :) The funny thing is that someone once ran up to us thinking that we were the police. I felt really bad for that lady because she needed the police and we weren't them but it was slightly comical that she thought we were the police.
So to answer Delsa's question about how the Thai people celebrate Christmas. There are some decorations out but not a lot. Kinda like early November in the states when some stores start bring out decorations too early. Members celebrate Christmas by having branch and district parties. I don't think people really do the whole tree thing. Thai people kinda celebrate it because it's a farang holiday about presents. Very few people here understand that Christmas is a religious holiday celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world.
I'm sorry about the snow. I know you guys said I couldn't talk about the weather in Thailand during winter time but I'm going to break that rule. It's actually been pretty cold here in the mornings. I need a sweater otherwise my arms are cold. It obviously isn't as cold as in the states and it probably isn't even that cold because I just got used to Thai weather but still. It's colder than usual. So I kinda feel your pain. I'm drinking hot chocolate some times :) Well I guess warm chocolate milk because I don't like it too hot.
personal study has been in Alma about all the missionary stories. It's super cool because I can relate to the missionaries and I understand where they are coming from. :)
um...yeah... sorry. There isn't much else to report. I LOVE YOU ALL SO VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY MUCH!!!!!! =D
~Sister Slaugh

Chiang Mai Letter--December 2, 2013

Hey Family!

Sorry this letter is late (not that it makes much of a difference for you folks). A nearby college is doing a sort of "World Religions" class and so students are going to different churches to learn about them. They chose our church to be the representative of the Christian religion. There will be 6 sessions - each about 2.5 hours long - over a period of 4 non-consecutive days. The hour and half (ish) is just us giving a presentation. The rest of the time is the students asking questions. It's actually pretty cool. We had two sessions this morning. The presentation covers the plan of salvation, prophets prophesying about Christ, Christ's birth, life, and ministry, the Atonement, the great apostasy (and dark ages), and then the Restoration up to the Saints arriving in Utah. It also covers the organizations in the church and stuff like that. It's a really good presentation which gives an overview of our beliefs. And the questions so far from the students have been really good ones. Well, usually. Some of the students didn't care much but other ones were really interested. There are about 42 students for each session.

So this week...well...this week was weird. Monday was mission tour. Tuesday was P-day and English class. Wednesday was normal. Thursday was Thanksgiving! We went to a farang member's house and it was sooooo good. Think traditional Thanksgiving dinner - turkey, corn, mashed potatoes, bread, banana bread, pie, cranberry sauce, stuffing. It was all sooooo good. We all were so stuffed afterwards it was hard to move. Soooo good!

Friday was pretty normal too. The Jehovah Witnesses never showed up. One had to go look for an apartment to live in and the other was in the hospital for something. This means we probably will never have to met with them - they don't have our number and we aren't planning on calling them to reschedule. I am very grateful we didn't meet with them.

Inviting on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday was hard for all three of us. It was hard to get motivated. Hard to keep on inviting after rejection after rejection and people laughing. But oh well. We kept on doing it. Saturday was soooo good though. It was kinda like God was testing our resolve and obedience Wed-Fri, but on Saturday He just threw out lots of blessings. It was really good. We met some really cool people. The only downside to Friday was visiting a less active who is slightly crazy and we don't know how she got baptized in the first place. She claims she has already taken her records out of the church. The reason I say that she only claims that she's done this is because I don't think she ever called the Branch President in order to take them out. She has only said that she's taken them out. All the same, it's so hard visiting her. There is just not a good spirit at her house.

Saturday night the Elders had a baptism. His name is R and he is just a good guy. Oh my goodness he is so awesome and amazing.

Sunday was really good. We have some really cool new investigators. They are really interested and really willing to keep the commandments. They are a mom and her 10 year-old daughter. The mom is sooo cute and so fantastic. And the daughter asked us how long she has to learn before she can become a missionary. And Sunday was the first day we met the daughter. Soooo cute.

I have no idea what is going on for Christmas. Apparently transfers might change from the 19th to being closer or after Christmas but I really don't know. I will let you know as soon as I know. I'm assuming we'll still be skyping on Christmas but I don't actually know for sure. :)

I don't know if there is really much else to report. Every month President Senior sends out a newsletter and in this one he told us that there were 109 baptisms and 69 reactivation in Thailand in November. He says that that is the size of one ward! The work is progressing, faster and faster. This new contacting method is making it go even faster. It is sooo exciting! It is soo amazing to be a part of this work.

I love you all sooo very much and my prayers are with you. Please be safe and never lose hope. As Preach My Gospel says, all that is unfair in this life can be made right through the atonement of Jesus Christ. He is our Lord and Savior and our older brother. He and Heavenly Father love us very much and are very mindful of us. More times than not, we don't understand why we have certain trials. That's when one of my favorite verses comes in: "I know that He loveth His children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things" (1 Nephi 11:17)

Run the good race and finish the course. Fight the good fight and keep the faith. I love you all sooooo very much!

Sister Slaugh :)