Monday, July 7, 2014

Bangna Letter--July 7, 2014

I hit my year-mark in Thailand this week. How do I feel? Weird. Especially since we have a greenie in our district right now (District Leader is training) and I can reflect how I was as a greenie. I so much prefer not being a greenie. Greeniehood is super stressful. Your Thai is great, all things considered, but all you can think about is how much better it needs to be.
This week was really good. At the end of last week, Sister Embley and I made a goal to work with the church leaders better - aka make them more involved and all that fun stuff. We already have a good relationship with the leaders but it could always be better and more organized. So we made a plan and started to put it into action. Then on Friday we had zone training which talked about a lot of things that we had discussed. It was really nice because we were already prepared and zone training just enlarged and improved our plan. It was soooo nice because we were able to get a running start on everything they asked us to do. 

So I guess I should remind everyone what is going on in Thailand. The vision/goal: a temple. the plan: 4 stakes. Requirements: more members (baptisms!), more faithful tithe-paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders (baptisms! and reactivations), more temple workers (baptisms!, reactivations, and member strengthening) So yeah...running theme: baptisms. It's great. The mission standard/goal/aim/vision/whateveryoucallit is one a week so 4 this month (4th of July--haha). How is that going to happen? Inviting everyone you see to be baptized and going inviting for at least 2 hours everyday. "Would you like to be cleansed from your sin?" We say it so much during the day that I would be surprised if we weren't saying it in our sleep. I love it. 

Things that we learned at Zone Training plus things that Sister Embley and I discussed: the first is a world-wide change. All investigators must learn lessons 1-5 before baptism. After baptism, missionaries have to still take the lead reviewing lessons 1-5. I really like it actually - especially the lesson 5 prebaptism. It helps them see the bigger picture. In Thailand, we focus a ton on baptism. President Senior calls us missionary baptizing machines. We are really good at it now. We find, teach, baptize. Now we are refining our retention. Teaching lesson 5 before baptism helps the investigators truly understand that baptism is just the first gate. Next you have to go to the temple. If you don't go to the temple, you are still not fully saved. President Senior and the other Thailand leaders are pushing really really hard on more unity between the wards/branches and the missionaries. That unity will help the retention. At transfer meeting, the new stake president talked to us and compared this work to a relay race. It doesn't matter how fast you run the first part if the baton gets dropped and time is lost. He asked us to run with the second runner (the members/leaders) for a little bit while handing off the baton to ensure success. Members are sooooo important in this work. Without members, this work is nigh impossible. Yeah we can baptize but what's the point is all the fruit is lost. So yeah, we are focusing more and working harder at working with church leaders. 

We are soooo blessed to be here in Bangna because the leaders here are soooo amazing. Obviously there are always things to improve because we are all human and not perfect but whatever. Bangna is doing sooooooo amazingly well. The members are really supportive of the work too. In other areas I been in, a lot of members have complained to me about the fast baptisms. Here in Bangna, the members are really good at helping us keep the fruit. They are soooo good. They come to activities. They actually talk to the new members. They make sure the new members (and investigators) feel welcome and know that if they have any questions, they can ask. They are just sooo helpful. Retention rate in Bangna has gone up recently which is great. 

One thing I love about the church in Thailand is how many activities there are. Granted, they are mostly all missionary run but that will change with time. Monday we started FHE for the single members. Tuesday is English class. Wednesday is Book of Mormon class (to help new members and investigators gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon). Thursday is your night off. Friday is Institute and Seminary. Saturday is Sports Nights. Sunday is church and a lot of members stay from around 8:30am to about 8:30pm - especially the new members. The new members have really fellowshipped each other. They come to basically every activity (I promise we don't force them but we do highly encourage it and call them and invite them). And by a lot of members come every night, I mean like a couple of long-term families and mostly the new members. Other members come to activities every once in a while. It's still really great. I love how much the church feels like family here. 

What else?
Oh! A perfect new investigator. She is actually a referral from a long-term member here. She is really a dry Mormon. Her parents were sealed in the temple but they live really far away from the church. Her father passed away when she was little but her mom still raised her and her brother with the Book of Mormon and all the commandments. So she only goes to church like once every couple of years but she prays and read the scriptures and keeps all the commandments (even tithing). So she is up her for a couple of weeks for a country-wide YSA activity. A member called us up and basically commissioned us to baptize her as fast as we could. It was really funny because long-term members aren't always supportive of the fast baptisms. But yeah, so she is literally one of the easiest investigators I have ever taught because she already knows, believes, understands, and keeps everything. So she is getting baptized this Sunday. 
Speaking of baptisms this Sunday, did Diego's date change or is he still getting baptized this Sunday? What about those other two investigators of the Sisters? Did they ever come back? Are baptisms happening more frequently at home now? 

What else? So we teach a lot of group RC lessons because our RCs have just become so close to each other. Yesterday we went in-depth about the plan of salvation and the temple. We taught them about the 3 levels of the celestial kingdom. They were all very surprised about the whole marriage thing. It was super funny. I'm glad we taught them that so that they will start factoring that into their future. It was good for them. It was also good to remind them that they aren't "saved" just because they were baptized. You have to remain faithful and continue growing and processing. 

So yeah. Everything here is good. I love being a missionary. I truly just love it sooo much. It is so fulfilling. Thank you for getting so involved with the missionary work back at home. It truly does make our life so much easier when we know we have strong members we can rely on. 

LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH!!!! Good luck at Young Women Camp, Mom! Have fun. Sorry about the rain in the house. Tell everyone at camp that I say hi. I invite everyone to consider serving a mission. It is literally the best decision in my life so far. You think you understand the gospel pre-mission but let me tell you, you could understand so much more. Your mind is truly opened and enlightened about the purpose of this life, about the gospel, and about the converting power of the Book of Mormon and the Holy Spirit, and of the Atonement. I am so grateful for the Atonement. I know it truly has the power to change lives. I have seen it change my life and the lives of my investigators. People truly can change. Good people made better. Terrible people made good. The lost are found. They truly are kept from the truth only because they know not where to find it. It's true. It all is so true. There is no way you can deny it. Everyday I see people change their lives. For some, it is a drastic change. Others, only slightly. Either way, everyone is planted more fully on the path to eternal exaltation. I love declaring repentance unto this people. It's all I want to do. It is truly the one of the most fulfilling things you can do. Either at home or in the mission field, every one can share the gospel. Everyone can be a watchman on the tower. Everyone needs to be. It is our sacred duty as Latter-day Saints. We need to share the good one. We need to save our loved ones - our family, our friends, our neighbors, and even those random people you pass on the street everyday. It's true. And I am so grateful to be apart of it. 
LOVE YOU ALL and I hope you have a great day and week and everything. Stay safe. 
~Sister Slaugh

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