Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bangna Letter--August 18, 2014

Hello everyone. This has been an excellent week. Would you like to know why? I will tell you. 
First off, I would like to remind everyone of something Mom and Dad always say: when you have trials, it's not because God doesn't love you but because God trusts you. Let's hope that is true.
So ... we have investigators!!!!!!!!!!! Haha I don't know if I have ever been so happy. We have people to teach! Whee! One of them is this adorable 17 year-old girl. Apparently we had contacted her before when it was raining but she had forgotten to go to the appointment. I don't remember so maybe it was the missionaries before us. Either way, she said that she had thought about us and baptism all the time since then--whenever she passed that first place where she met us. She couldn't stop thinking about it. So she searched Google about baptism. And then when she saw us again she came right up to us and told us she was interested. We were very surprised how willing she was to meet. haha. But yeah, she is great and so cute!
Another one is an interesting guy. He is 35 with absolutely no goals or plans for the future. He says that he can't say that he is happy because he hasn't really had any problems to compare it with. Sleep.eat.breathe.work.getmoney.spendmoney.sleep.etc. That's it. So we are working with him to help him have purpose in his life. We'll keep you posted. :)

Did I tell you last week about some of the issues that have been occurring amongst the new members? I can't remember. Anyway, we are resolving them. I don't like problems and drama (then again, who does?).
Two of our favorite RCs stopped talking to each other for some reason or other but we had to get involved because it was making stuff awkward for lessons and such. Anyway so here is our way of fixing the issue. We gave those two the responsibility to share a spiritual thought together for FHE. They had to plan together and do everything together. We didn't mention that we knew there was an issue. As a missionary, I don't want to get involved with people's personal issues. I just want everyone to get along so we can work efficiently. One of the RCs is very hot headed so apparently, to escape the issue, he went to Burma (it's like 3 or 4 hours away). Apparently he had to go for work too but he later told us that a main reason he went was so he could think clearly. But yeah, so for a whole day, he wouldn't answer the phone. The next day he called us, told us that he had repented, and that he was coming back. It was really really really really really comical. But they are good again so yeah, I'm happy.

There are still a lot of issues between members which is frustrating. I don't like drama. I want everyone to get along so we can have good experiences at church. Unfortunately we are all human and our emotions get in the way. So yeah. Our method of dealing with the issues is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have to get involved because these problems are hurting our RCs and making some of them question coming to church. It makes me sad that imperfect people's mistakes make other people think about leaving a perfect church. So yeah, our solution. We have lovingly pounded "enduring to the end" into our RC's heads. You do NOT go to church for others. You do NOT keep the commandments for others. You do these things for yourself and for Christ. I don't care if you hate everyone at church, you still go to church to partake of the sacrament. Yadayadayadayada. 
Also, we are getting the members that have the issues involved in our activities. We are starting to take our RCs with us to go visit LAs and we are involving the other members too. Service makes everyone happier, right? Also, if you serve together, you are more likely to love each other. That is our plan. 

So miracles.
Contacting has been really good this week. We go with the Elders to the same place every day. It's been really good. 
Also... miracle at church with an investigator named Lai. 
He is from Taiwan and speaks a little bit of English and a little bit of Thai but not a lot of either. He has been coming to church for about a week but we haven't been able to teach him because 'not free! not free!" so yeah. Two weeks ago I asked him if he wanted to be baptized but...yeah I didn't really understand his response. But either way, I think it got him thinking because yesterday at church he passed me a note telling me that he wanted to be baptized next week. Yay! The only thing is that he isn't free till Saturday. So we are going to be having some interesting phone lessons with him, trying to teach him everything before Saturday. Yeah. We can't do it but God can. So yeah. Faith. Good things are happening. 

But yeah. all in all, everything is good and getting better. We are happy. Super tired but happy. We are going to nap today (yay P-day). The Gospel solves all issues. 

LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!!!!! =D

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bangna Letter--August 11, 2014

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY PARENTS!!!! I am so grateful that you both (Mommy and Daddy) got sealed in the temple. Thank you for that amazing decision. As missionaries here in Thailand (and I'm assuming everywhere in the world), in every lesson that we teach our RCs (Recent Converts) we have been asked to mention the temple. Every lesson pre-baptism is towards baptism (but we still talk about the temple so they know baptism isn't the end) and every lesson post-baptism is towards the temple. Baptism is only the first gate. It's really fun teaching our RCs about the temple because they are getting soooo excited. They ask me questions all the time about what they have to do to prepare. I am soooo excited for the day that Thailand has a temple. It will bless all of Asia (at least this section).  

This week...well...every week is good. Every week has its ups and its downs. Still working through the investigator drought. It's been a very spiritual week--mainly because it has still been so hard. I'm going to tell you the main things of each day--not to complain but to explain. Monday and Tuesday are packed full of preparation day stuff (Monday) and meetings (on Tuesday). We still contact but because it's the rainy season ... yadayadayada. Wednesday we were home sick all day (my companion--not me). I made a TON of phone calls and our apartment is more organized. Thursday--transfers. Neither of us moved but we had to go to switch our phone and the Zone Leaders wanted everyone to go. Friday and Saturday--good normal work days. I have so missed good normal work days. Problem: still is insanely difficult to find anyone interested--like 2 or 3 (usually 6-8). And half of those people weren't actually interested in baptism, just interested in flirting. (By the way, this morning I was invited to go to Burma with some random guy. Don't worry, I said no.) So yeah. This leads me to Friday night. 
I am happiest when I am working, obviously. I love contacting, teaching, etc. These past three weeks have been really difficult because we haven't taught any new investigators and contacting has been hard. Therefore, Friday night I was really stressed, despite my attempts not to be (when you enter the mission field they give you this book about managing stress). Three weeks. Frankly, I think I did pretty good lasting 3 weeks. haha. So Friday night after we plan and pray and all that stuff, we have kind of "personal time" of sorts to write in the journal, prepare for bed, etc. I prayed. And cried. Not in anger at God or anything. Just pleading to know what on earth I was doing wrong (not as in saying that I think I'm perfect or anything but as in I didn't think there were any huge issues). Why? We are being exactly obedient (or at least trying to be), going contacting, etc. Why isn't this working? What else do we need to be doing? 
You know how D&C talks about treasuring up the word of God and it will be given to you in your time of need? It's true. I know from experience. In that moment I was reminded of a Mormon Message called "The Will of God" (https://www.lds.org/pages/mormon-messages#the-will-of-god). You should watch it. In particular, these lines: "I am the Gardener here and I know what I want you to be." This is God's vineyard and we are only helping Him in His harvest. This is His area and we are His children and He knows what He wants us and these areas to be. The Spirit told me in that moment that this past three weeks, God has been teaching me about patience and humility. "Thank you Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me." Am I the only one that thinks it's comical that it took me three weeks for me to learn my lesson? haha. Maybe it's just because it took three long weeks to make the lesson complete because I am positive throughout those three weeks I was praying for guidance and all that stuff. 
So afterwards, I was still praying and thinking. Okay, so God knows what He wants to happen. He knows what is best. So how am I supposed to know? I was reminded of another talk: "Where is the Pavilion?" by President Henry B. Eyring in October 2012. He shares a story of his daughter-in-law who was barren despite her righteous desires to be a mother. In the end, she prayed and said "Heavenly Father... I will give you all of my time; please show me how to fill it. " I love this and have thus adopted it.
On Saturday some missionaries and members were fasting for the Stake President's wife (was in surgery but is fine now) and I took the opportunity to fast about that but also to find out what God wanted us to do. On Sunday the answer came very clearly from multiple sources: work with the RCs. Help them. Strengthen them. Another sister missionary--who ended her mission on Thursday but was visiting her other areas--quoted to me some quote from some apostle to mission presidents (we are all so specific) that working with the new members will never make your investigator pool shrink. Also on Friday there was this huge drama thing with some of the new members that we have to go help clean up. The new members told us about it and the clean-up stuff that we are going to do is all their idea--it's just that we missionaries are kinda like the leaders of the new members. We have made a plan to go visit less actives with new members. They are all excited and ready to go. Very good. 
So yeah. I will let you know how everything turns out. I don't know what will happen but I'm sure it will be something good. 
Haha it's kinda funny. This has been a lesson in patience and humility and I feel like I just got more stubborn. "I will figure out what's wrong." "I will not sit idling by." "I will make everything good again."
Sunday night our Sister Training Leader called us, making sure that we were okay. She and I entered this zone together 2 transfers ago so she knows how things used to be and all that stuff. We are also pretty close because, as she is our Sister leader thing, we talk pretty often. I told her everything--I'm not ashamed because I am literally trying my hardest. She commented that it's been interesting how everything has worked out. She and I have been in the same situation before--where we had great companions and we had been able to help the Lord harvest a lot in these areas. So, she said, our faith was strengthened and we saw that this field truly is white already to harvest (D&C 4). After our faith was strengthened, that new strength obviously needs to be tested. Hence these three weeks. Can we keep on going, harvesting, leaning on our faith, despite how barren the field now seems? I would like to say that we passed. But dude, it hurt. It really hurt. I do not want to do it again. 
But don't worry. Everything is okay. I am reminded of instances in high school or middle school when I would be freaking out about a mistake I made or something that happened and Mom and Dad would just be like, "get over it. Learn your lesson, stop fussing, fix it, and move on. You can't change the past but you can change the future." Not exact words. I'm not sure if they remember these instances but I do. Very influential in my life. So thanks :)
In other news, I think I'm starting to get a cold but I have firmly informed my body that I don't have time to be sick so sorry. It has to wait until I am no longer wearing this badge. :) 
Haha so while I theoretically have gotten more patient, loving, humble, and all that good stuff, I have also gotten more direct and blunt. As a missionary in Thailand (maybe this is the same all over but I don't know), you have to be blunt and direct. We teach the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom the first lesson and very clearly. Our way of contacting is asking people to come to church and/or to be cleansed of their sins. :) It's very fun. I like it. :) 

Other news. At transfers, President Senior informed us of a new mission rule that I think will be super hard: we have to cook at home at least twice a week. Meaning that at least two meals a week have to be made from home. And yes, this is a rule. "Why?" you may ask. "It can cost less and save MSF funds, it will lead to enjoyable meals on Sunday’s and will impress your family and friends when you return home.  It is a skill that will bless you the rest of your life." President Senior asked: what will our families and friends think when we return home and we can't make a Thai food dish to save our lives? Good point. But still. Luckily my Thai companion majored in food and the cooking thereof. The mission has also sent us recipes to get us started. And we are told to ask the members for help. It's all very comical for me. And luckily it is only twice a week. 

What else happened this week? 
Oh! Happy early birthday to Jon. And to Dad, Mom, Rachel, and Leslie. Is there anyone else?

OH! Lorri. I keep on forgetting to tell you that about a month ago I met some people that you served with. I forget their names but I think they took a picture so hopefully they sent it to you. Apparently they called you Elder Slaugh? Impressive. :) And today I met a guy named Jeff that was in your first area. He also remembers you. He said that the first thing he learned (?) about you was that you had a very impressive history knowledge...background...dude I have no idea. English is hard. He married a khon thai from Bangna. Do you know who I am talking about? Their children are super adorabs. 

In other news, I totally love my RCs. They are literally some of my new best friends. But don't worry, we keep everything super professional.

Um...other news...
Tomorrow is Mother's Day in Thailand - the Queen's birthday. Happy Mother's Day!

I can't think of anything else. So yeah. Love you all!

Bangna Letter--August 4, 2014

It was really interesting reading your responses to my email last week. Sorry I scared you. :)
I guess I should have explained more of a backdrop of what the norm is in this mission (or at least my norm because I don't know what others are doing). Usually a baptism a week, 3-5 people with dates, 5-8 people at church, 10-15 investigator lessons, 25-30 other lessons, and 5-8 new investigators. I think that is why last week was so hard, because it's like everything came to a stop and refused to start moving again. 
You know how we are supposed to apply scriptures stories in our life? These past two weeks have been an application of Nephi's experience in retrieving the plates. First try--no go. Second try--actually ending up worse then the last time. Third try--totally succeeding in maybe an unexpected way and actually ending up with more than you planned on. That's my goal for this the third week. Onward and upward! :) Though don't worry, not planning on doing anything like what Nephi did to Laban....unless it's Satan of course. :)

So...the miracles of this week...........hm....

Let's start with yesterday. A member took us to visit another member who was sick and is struggling spiritually too. It's hard to visit people like that. They are tired and just ready to give up. She and her husband work from home and it's been really tiring. Strained relationship in marriage, at work, and with people at church. We tried to give her encouragement but she just seems so tired. Obviously, we aren't giving up on her. We are going to try to go over and serve her a couple times a week for the next few week. Talk to her more at church. Things will improve. BUT. that obviously wasn't the miracle...not yet anyway. So we left her house but the member stayed. We decided to walk home instead of getting a taxi. We were just walking in a busy neighborhood. Made me think of how missionaries used to work in the past. We weren't knocking on doors or anything but if we saw anyone, we would call out to them and start talking to them. Last house on the street--of course it has to be the last house--we met someone who is at least interested enough to learn what we are talking about (most people just wave us away). She is this really cute little old grandma who just happened to come back from her own church. One of her daughters was with her. This daughter has had a problem since birth with her ears - she can't really hear and her speaking is just grunts. She is probably around 30 now(?) They opened the gate to talk to us (they live in a huge house) and when the daughter saw my picture of Christ, she grabbed my hand and rushed me into the house. Luckily the grandma and my companion followed us. The daughter--Mary--started showing me all these pictures in their house of Christ. She was sooo excited. The grandma asked if we--as teachers at a church--could pray for the daughter--in particular lay our hands upon her hand and give her a blessing. We started explaining the Priesthood and how we can have two people who have the Priesthood authority of God give the daughter a blessing. Right after we finish emailing we and the Elders are going back to the lady's house. She really wants to feed us lunch too. 
My thoughts about this are as follows: One, we read in the Bible that sometimes people have issues (like the blind man) just so the power of God can be manifest. But, we also read about the early apostles who couldn't preform miracles like Christ (at first). Christ said that miracles of this kind (I can't remember which kind--casting out devils?) only can happen after lots of prayer and fasting. Also, sometimes people's physical problems are just their trials in this life. After we explained the power of the Priesthood we also explained the Plan of Salvation--mainly the resurrection. Mary got really really really excited that she would be able to hear either after the blessing or at least when she gets resurrected. They seem like an amazing family. Wish us luck...aka pray for us please :) 

Other stuff. 
Dam got baptized!!! On Thursday...haha. When we were calling and inviting all the members, they were all completely confused that someone was getting baptized on a Thursday. 

In Thailand, there have currently been 1200+ baptisms this year. When President Senior first got here, he said that he had a vision of 1000 baptisms in the year. Everyone thought he was crazy, especially considering Thailand's track of only 30-50 (maybe 70 in a good month) baptisms per month. So yeah, now we are aiming for 2000. And an average of 4000 people attending church weekly by the end of September (retention and reactivation). 
It reminds me of the scriptures when people called Lehi a visionary man. Despite the impossibility of it, Jerusalem was still destroyed. People may think God crazy and they may think His servants insane but God knows the beginning from the end and all that stuff. It's best for us if we just trust Him. 

Um...yeah. Don't really know what else to talk about. LOVE YOU ALL SOO MUCH!!!
Also, I was just reminded by another missionary that I have to do some college stuff--like get an ecclesiastical endorsement. ugh. ew. ugh. *shudder* college ... wow it's been so long since I've thought about this stuff. Ew. ew. ew. ew. ew. I love you guys but I'm not ready. sorry. *mental freak out* yeah... breathe. breathing is good. 

So yeah. Love you all! Have a great week! We will too! =D

Bangna Letter--July 28, 2014

The subject line was "an experiment in Murphy's Law"
So...this week was probably one of the hardest weeks of my mission - so I feel really bad for Sister Autamakul. But, before I bore you (or worry you as it might be in Mom's case) with the stories of how everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong in the worst possible way, I would like to report that everything is better now. The storm is over--not just the eye of storm but the whole storm. Heavenly Father and I have had some nice long talks and we--meaning my companion and I--took the sacrament yesterday. It's so nice to think that we can be clean from our mistakes and our weaknesses every week. This is not just true for our members and investigators, but for us too. 
Also I feel that God has forgiven me for my mistakes and weaknesses already. You know when people talk about repentance and forgiveness and they all say that God remembers them no more and we don't either? I think I'm learning to understand what that means. I know that this past week was the hardest week I've had (you can read that in my journal [or rather, she can, since we can't see her journal]) but still, I don't remember that pain or that stress anymore. All I can think about is the hope that the sacrament brought and the motivation to do better. It reminds me of Alma the younger's experience. He remembered his pains no more. When you truly repent and take the sacrament, you are no longer held bound by your mistakes and weaknesses. You are truly made free.  

More evidence that things will only get better came from my Sister Training Leaders last night during our Sunday-night-zone-sisters-talk-thing (conference call with all the sisters in the zone to talk about that week--talk about miracles, follow-up with each other, talk about investigators, etc). They shared D&C 6:33-37. I loved all of it but especially these sections: 
"34 Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.
 35 Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you."

So the stuff that went wrong was that even though we went contacting 2+ hours every day we didn't meet anyone truly interested, literally were not able to teach any new investigators (except for on Sunday and that was one person who isn't free till next Sunday), and the two people that were supposed to be baptized yesterday (and had been looking super solid) had unknown problems surface and didn't show up to church yesterday and haven't been answering their phones since. So that was challenging. 
BUT! This next week shall be miraculous. Why?  Because this is God's work - not ours - and we are built upon His rock. So fail, we cannot. 
ALSO! One of our eternal investigators wants to get baptized! His name is Dam and his obstacle was that his parents asked him to become a monk before he gets baptized. Awkward... :) We got him to come to church every Sunday and for all the other activities for the last couple of months. We wanted him to be a dry Mormon before he went to became a monk for a little. This Sunday he came up to me and asked, very nicely, if he could get baptized next Sunday. We figure he can get baptized this Wednesday or Thursday so that he can be confirmed this Sunday. Miracles. God works miracles. We still have no idea what to do when he has to become a monk at the end of this year but we figure we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. :)

Other news...(aka responses to emails)

-Dad. No! Father-daughter camp! It must happen. It needs to be a calling :)
-Also Dad again. I agree about the Sunday thing. As a missionary, Sundays are literally our most stressful days. No resting. 
-Mom. I have no idea about the Mosiah 20-24. I just looked over them about they are about war, people of Limhi, more fighting, etc. Parts of it are about escaping from bondage so maybe that? no clue.
-Mom. While I cannot completely deny any involvement of that smiley face [Saturday Linden and Debra stained and sealed a door from the basement, and discovered "someone" had drawn a smiley face on the door. The smiley is now preserved under sealer.], I would like to mention that I have no recollection of such incident and therefore I am innocent. :) Also, you guys should send me an updated picture of the house. :)
-Jayson's 3? What? No. you're joking right?
Delsa- I am sooo impressed that Rachel is actually learning Chinese. That's insane. That will help her so much with learning another language - especially an Asian one. Also that will be fantastic for her mission because I literally meet so many Chinese people here. I'm also really impressed about the fasting thing. She has a lot of faith. And you can tell Audrey that no, my bike is not in a tree again. That's hilarious that she still remembers that and thought about that. 

I can't think of anything else to report though I know there was probably something else I should have mentioned. Everything is good here or will be soon. We are happy and not stressed. We sing a lot. I would like to warn everyone that I can't remember the hymns in complete English any more. If I will be singing any hymns, it will be an awkward mix between Thai, English, and humming. :)