Sunday, April 15, 2012

Elder Todd's view in Bangkok, Songkran Water Festival

Transfer 7--Chiang Rai

Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2012 11:35:26 +0700
Subject: Transfer 7...

Hey Family!

How are you doing? Well, first of all. I got transferred as Brother Khai told you. I am up in Chiang Rai, the furthest North province of Thailand. For that reason, this area has a special nickname from president Smith. 

So first of all, on Tuesday morning, Elder Davis and I got a call from President Smith. He extended calls to us. Elder Davis got called to be a trainer, so I knew that I was out of Thonburi. It was sad to leave those investigators and those members there. They are all so sweet and dear to me. The members are awesome! I'm going to miss them for sure. But then president spoke to me and told me where I was going. Chiang Rai!

Chiang Rai is its own district, and it only has 2 missionaries. My companion and myself. The next closest area is Chiang Mai where the Zone Leaders are. Elder Wagstaff is one of my Zone leaders and it's fun to get to talk to him during nightly phone calls. But back to Thursday at transfer meeting, president called my name and said, "Elder Todd, exhaltation."  They call Chiang Rai "exhaltation" because it's the "highest degree" in Thailand. It's the very top. It's fun to have those nicknames. Roi Et's nicknames were 101 and LA. Thonburi didn't have one, but other places do. 

So I'm up here with my new companion, Elder Susi. He just finished training and is starting his third transfer. It's way wierd, I feel like I was JUST in his spot. But the time is flying. I can't even believe it. 

Not much really happened at the beginning of this week before leaving Thonburi. Tuesday, we taught Enghlish class. Then we packed up all of our things, and taught a few investigators. Then on Wenesday, we had to go renew our visas. We waited from 8:30 to noon at the visa office. Then at noon they were just over halfway to our numbers and they said theywere going to break for an hour for lunch. That was just frustrating to all of us who were there. I felt especially bad for E. McDonald. It was his last day in the mission field and he had to spend it waiting for hours for his companion to renew his visa. He was my Zoneleader my first two transfers. He was so good, and I really looked up to him. We had a good chat, he gave me some advice for coming up to Chiang Rai. He was in a similar situation when he was starting his 7th transfer just like me. It was really good. He gave me a lot of encouragement. Then on thursday we had transfer meeting. Our bus for Chiang Rai didn't leave until 9:40, and Elder Susi had to go renew his visa, so the assistants had me come with them to take the missionaries who were going home to the president's house. It was really interesting to be with them. They had a really solid group, and they all couldn't believe that I still get to be in Thailand for a year plus. It made me so grateful for the time that I have remaining. 
Then Elder Susi and I waited at the bus station for about four hours. We had to be there super early becasue during Songkran they might give away our seats. Then we left Bangkok at about 10 pm and got to Chiang Rai at about 11 am on the following morning. 

We went and got some of those sweet flower shirts and squirt guns to play Songkran, and went out. It was nuts! Just people throwing water and baby powder, and flour. It's all squirt guns and buckets of water, no water balloons, which is probably safer. But wow--so many people were just drunk! I felt bad for them. We met this British guy who was talking to us. He said, "It took me a little bit to warm up to playing with the water. Actually about three beers, but you don't drink do you? You know Jesus drank." Then he stopped talking to me. I was just thinking, so many people love trying to get the church with that. But they don't understand. Oh well. We had to be home by 6 pm the last three days because it's so dangerous during the festival with all of the drunk people driving. So we studied in the evenings. Then on Saturday and Sunday we went out to do our best to get some work done. We went tracting. It was really difficult. We only taught two lessons in those two days. No one was home and sober. 

But church was good. The branch is small, and meets in a rented building.  The Branch President seems really good! I'm really excited the members here seem great! I'm going well, and just loving this great latter-day work! I hope you are all well! I love you so much!

Elder Todd
Onward and upward!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Easter and April Conference 2012

Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2012 17:34:50 +0700
Hey Family!  Happy Easter!

It was so great to think about the infinite atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I took the time to read each of the four gospels accounts of the atonement and resurrection this last week. I love them all, but I think my favorite is John. I think it's so interesting that John goes into Gethsemane the furthest with the Savior, but he writes the least about the suffering of our master. I feel that is because of the sacredness of what took place there. 
I love the interchange between the resurrected Lord and Mary in John 20. "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?"  She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, "Sir, if thou have born him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away."
"Jesus saith unto her, Mary."  I wonder how much love must have been in that simple calling of her name. More than I can imagine, I'm sure. "She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni," which is to say, Master.
"Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not (Joseph Smith translation sayd HOLD me not. As if she could will Him to stay there, and out of His infinite love he would, as he did with the Nephites in 3 Nephi 17),  for I am not ascended to my Father: but go unto my bretheren, and say unto them, I ascend to my Father, and your Fatehr; and to my God, and your God."

This week was a solid week for the work. It was cool. Last Monday we had planned to go tracting on one street. We got there and felt like that was not where we needed to be. I had the next street over pop into my head, and could see the street sign in my mind. So I said, lets go there. So we did. We met a man who is from Thailand, but lives in Las Vegas. He said he had a lot of LDS friends, but had never investigated the church, so we gave him a Book of Mormon in Thai and some pass along card for the church's website.  He said that he would go and look it up and talk to his friends about it. I really felt like we were supposed to go there to find him. It was a really cool experience. 

Then on Tuesday, we were teaching a returning member. She said that she had a professor at her college who is from Colorado who was challenging her beliefs and giving her a hard time for being LDS.  He also had questions because her philosophy book said that there couldn't be a God. I had 2 Nephi 2:13 come into my head. I remembered it from my philosophy 101 class at BYU with Professor Mower. So I shared it. I think it's a powerful "if /then" statement. I also, after hearing conference, think of what Elder Russell M. Nelson said about how unlikely it is that an explosion in a printing shop could create a dictionary! That was such a great statement! And I loved it.  It's just impossible for us to be here by chance. Just like Alma 30:44 says "all things denote that there is a Supreme Creator."

Then some fantastic news. Wallop, talked to his boss and got work off on Sundays! So now he can come to church! He even said he wants to come during Songkran! Which is way sweet since basically EVERYTHING will shut down for the 13,14,15. I hear it's pretty sketchy during this national festival... but I'll be careful and not do anything stupid. 

Then on Wednesday, the Bishop and his wife invited us over for dinner. She made tacos. And they were delicious! It's amazing that with the internet she could make tacos in Thailand. Who would have thought?  But I really feel like the Bishop trusts us, and trusts that we are trying to help this ward. I also realized that having four sisters and a mother made me someone who enjoys conversation at meals. It's just so much fun to talk to them, especially since they are respectful and help us focus on the work. 

Then the week was capped off by general conference. So great! I felt so uplifted and edified! We couldn't get the Saturday morning session in English, and I was pretty bummed about that, but Brother Khai was able to gt me a copy of conference on my ipod so that I could listen to it again! I really felt like the importance of the family was stressed, and the importance and responsibilities of preisthood holders too. 

Sorry this isn't the best email. Time is short and everything. I feel like I put more details in this week. I'm tyring to do a better job at that. I promise. I'll leave you all with the words of a scripture that has really impacted me this week. They are the words of the Master Himself. "Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall recieve; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (D&C88:66) I hope that you are all STUDYING not just reading in the scriptures daily. Both indiviually and as a family.  I also pray that you are praying daily as families. You're the best and I love you. Thailand is fantastic, and the work is great! Be safe and smart please!

Elder Todd

April in Thonburi

Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2012 12:27:24 +0700

Wow! I can't believe that it already is April! That's nuts!

Time is flying so fast. There just never seems to be enough of it to do what we want and need to do. That's something that I am reminded of everyday. I remember before my mission, when an hour of scripture study seemed so long.  Now it's not even enough! But it's good because I'm learning the importance of having a GOOD plan for every hour of the day. Last conference Ian S. Arden talked about how we often spend our time doing things that give the appearance of being busy, but they may not actually be the most effective uses of time. I hope that you are all using the little time that we have been given, to its fullest potential. 

Mom told me that Nate will be home in two transfers. I can hardly believe that! I feel like he just left.  And then I feel like I left yesterday. I really don't like how fast the time is going.

Okay anyway, this week was a solid week. We did get a lot done. We had a specialized training for the Bangkok West Zone. It was really good, and we focused on the importance of finding new investigators. President Smith put us through what he calls "the grinder." It's an exercise where we just run a role play over and over again. We ran it 16 different times, switching people each time. It was really good and really helped us to get better at our invitations to have people hear the restored gospel. That's something that Preach My Gospel teaches.  It says to refer quickly and simply to the message of the restoration, for it is our unique message to the world. It's true! 

Who would have thought that the concept of the restoration would be super relevant in a Buddhist country. But it's more useful than I thought. People always say, "Oh you are Christian missionaries."  They lump ALL religions that believe in Christ together as one. They don't differentiate. They know that there is Catholicism, and Lutheranism and lots of sects, but they think that its all one faith. So I always tell people that we aren't a sect of Christianity. We are the Church of Jesus Christ. The ONLY authorized group on the whole earth that was established by Him. I am so grateful that the Lord named his church the way he did.

Then this week Banceud interviewed with the zone leaders. He didn't pass. That was a disappointment. But it was good, because he just needs to strengthen his faith in Joseph Smith and in the Book of Mormon. The best way to strengthen our faith in the Book of Mormon is by reading it. This morning Dad sent me Tad R. Callister's talk from last conference. i love the story told at the end of it. 

"Some years ago I attended one of our worship services in Toronto, Canada. A 14-year-old girl was the speaker. She said that she had been discussing religion with one of her friends at school. Her friend said to her, “What religion do you belong to?”  She replied, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons.”
 Her friend replied, “I know that church, and I know it’s not true.”
 “How do you know?” came the reply.
 “Because,” said her friend, “I have researched it.”
 “Have you read the Book of Mormon?”
 “No,” came the answer. “I haven’t.”
 Then this sweet young girl responded, “Then you haven’t researched my church, because I have read every page of the Book of Mormon and I know it’s true.”

I hope every single one of you are feasting from the words in the Book of Mormon daily. Not just reading, but feasting and studying. You will be more blessed, and have a greater understanding as you do so. That I promise. One really good thing that Banceud said was that he didn't want to be like the poeple he has seen who get baptized and stop going to church. He understands that this is a lifetime commitment, and he is taking it seriously. He want's to be worthy of it too. He is so sweet, and I can't wait for that blessed day when he is baptized. 

Also this week, we were teaching Wallop. He is doing well. he is progressing a lot more than when I first got here. I have no doubt that the Lord is working with him. He is humble and willling to be baptized.  He just hasn't gotten work off on Sundays yet. But I think as soon as he does that, and he can come to church, it will help him to quit smoking, and he will be baptized.  it was so cool, we were in the lesson with him, talking about prayer and I don't remember what I asked him, but the answer will be one that I always remember. He said, "Because I'm a son of God."  
That relationship is so key in everything that we do in this church. We are the offspring of God, and we cannot ever let ourselves forget that, or weaken our relationship with our loving Father in heaven.

Then, yesterday in fast and testimony meeting, we had a sister get up. She talked about how she always remembers the reference 2 Nephi 4:4, but she never remembers what it says. It's such an amazing promise in that verse. I challenge you to read it.  Then I challenge you to remember it in your lives. The promise in it is as real as anything. I know that the Lord will hold up his end of that bargain as long as we hold up our end. 

We have some new investigators from English class, and hopefully they will progress. It's so great to have an activity like English class that invites people to the church in a non threatening way. But people are always scared that we will do what other Christian churches do and make them be members if they walk into our church. It's so great to have 2 Nephi 2:27 to let them know that men are free according to the flesh. 

I'm as thankful as ever for the gift of agency, as well as all of the other gifts from God. We truly rely on Him for EVERYTHING, just like King Benjamin said in his angelic sermon. 

Well, I love you all, I'm healthy and well! I hope you all prayerfully apply the messages you hear during conferene in your lives. You're the best!
Elder Todd