Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pictures Week #8

Doing some service

Elder Kekauoha + Elder Brown

Look who "accidentally" ran into Elder Brown during his Sunday temple walk

Keegan, Elder Brown and Ridgely 

Less than a Week! - Week #8

Well this is it, the last week of our MTC experience. It is a surreal feeling to think that we will actually be leaving for Thailand on October 3rd! Our flight plans are as follows, in local times:

-Leave SLC for CHI at 7:00 am
-Land in CHI at around 11:10 am
-Long layover in CHI and then leave for Hong Kong at around 3:30 pm
-Land in Hong Kong at around 8:15 pm, layover for one hour
-Leave HK for Bangkok at 9:15 pm at 11:15 pm

A little crazy that we are flying to Chicago and then back towards Hong Kong, it will be a little extra but as long as we get to fly out of here, we are good with anything! When we were walking to our mailbox to check if our flight plans came, the Mandarins were walking out (Elder Willes' "adopted district") with theirs and so we just sprinted to the mailbox and there they were. Since then, it has gone actually faster than I thought it would but the next few days will be slow.

We have two more full days of class left and then in-field orientation and then one more class after that where we talk about the culture of Thailand so that we know enough to not offend anyone over there. And then we have two days of General Conference and we will be doing our final preparations in between sessions, like packing and doing laundry. And then we get up at around 2:45 in the morning on Monday and report to the travel office at 3:30 and get ready for about 30 hours of traveling.

We are so ready to get out to the field but we also aren't. Luckily the language has progressed a lot since Day 1, our Skype TRC with Phii Sua went well. We based our lesson plan around reading scripture to receive an answer to a question he had but he said he had no questions. In fact we asked him like 4 or 5 questions to see if he had any needs regarding reading the Book of Mormon and he had none, he was just perfect haha.

A couple days ago, my companion had to go to MTC choir because he will be singing in general conference choir. So, I was given the option of who to teach with and I picked Elder Turley. He went into the lesson with minimal preparation because it was such short notice but did so well. In fact him and I taught what I think was my most powerful, favorite lesson at the MTC. We taught our investigator about the Gift of the Holy Ghost the night before he was to receive baptism. He had a lot of questions and our answers just flowed. Phii Baa said one thing and Elder Turley and I looked at each other and knew what scripture to turn to, it was amazing. When we left, Phii Baa said he felt peace in his heart after the lesson and that he was excited for baptism. It was an amazing lesson about the Holy Ghost taught by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Unless we are given time before we leave, this very well might be my last weekly update before I leave. The next email you will ready will most likely be from Thailand! This MTC experience was long but your letters and packages made it easier to endure. Thank you all for your love and support.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

7 Down, Just 2 to Go - Week #7

I feel as if I have been in this MTC for more than seven weeks, it is unbelievable that for the past month and a half I have not traveled outside of the MTC campus. But now with each day, the prospect of going to Thailand becomes more and more real. We receive our flight plans on Friday that will detail every flight and layover so I will be able to send that next week, and a few days after that we should be receiving our native nametags. Right now, our name tags are half in English, with my name being spelled regularly, and the name of the Church spelled in Thai. Once we receive our new tags, our names will also be spelled in Thai and they are the ones we will be wearing in Thailand. So we are all very excited for the upcoming week.

The monotony of the MTC is starting to get to the Thai and Viet districts, the branch presidency is aware that we are anxious to just get out into the field so they had us set high goals to motivate us these next two weeks. For us, we decided the best way to make this place more exciting was schedule a real soccer match against the Vietnamese Elders, the ones going to Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia, and Anaheim speaking Viet. So it will be all the Phii Thais playing the Viets, wearing our mission shirts and holding our flags on the way to the field, it will be fun.

The nahng (young) Thais came in on Wednesday as well as eleven new Cambodians and two new Indonesian sisters. They are all on our classroom floor, unlike our Phii Thais who were in 18M, so that gives us the chance to come visit the ten new Elders and Sisters going to Thailand and help them with the language. It is funny to see where we were when we first got here, my companion and I offered ourselves as a practice investigator so we got to see how we actually taught lessons. I can truly say now, we really have come far. Although we still feel like we can't speak at all, we can now understand a lot and speak at a pretty basic level to get the point across.

Understanding the investigator/member we are teaching is a huge necessity. Yesterday we were again able to Skype a Thai-speaking member. This time our member was a girl named Sister Niws and she lived in Bangkok. She skyped us from the mission office because she is doing an internship there. Our lesson was solid and we were able to say what we needed to say. She was very involved and shared experiences and scriptures. We were able to understand about 50-60% of what she said, enough to know where to take the lesson. They really can speak fast so it is tough to catch up as you are trying to understand everything they are saying, but the Gift of Tongues is real and helps our companionship so much in being able to discern the needs of those we teach.

Sorry this is a short email, this week was long but it was just cramming language in before heading to Thailand. Love you all! Thank you for your letters and packages!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Pictures Week #6

From this:

To this:
Elder Willes and Elder Brown

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Now It Is Starting to Hit Me - Week #6

Tomorrow the new Thai, Cambodian, and Malays/Indos (we think) come. There are ten new Thai missionaries coming, eleven Cambodian, and we do not know how many Malays/Indos if any. It has caused a lot of us to start thinking about how real this is getting and how fast it is starting to go. We are now in the same shoes our Phii Thais were when we came and it feels like we were only with them for a short time. So these next three weeks are probably about to fly. That is, until we receive our flight plans. Everyone receives their flight plans ten days before departure, which means we will get ours a week from Friday. That is when it really starts to feel real and the time starts to go slow because you are waiting for a specific time on a specific day to leave to the airport.

My anticipation grows everyday to get out there, but also my anxiety. This language is difficult and has done much to humble me, I have to rely on my companion sometimes, my teachers a lot, and the Lord always. But I know that when I focus the gifts He has given me on my missionary purpose, my progress continually improves.

Yesterday was a sweet experience with the language, we had the privilege of teaching a member in Bangkok, Thailand through Skype! I remember before hitting the call button my companion and I were super nervous because if we said anything with an incorrect tone or vowel length he probably wouldn't understand. Other people's members spoke English also but I don't think ours did. His name was Ronni and he works as a translator for the church. It was hard to focus with about thirty other video calls going on in Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Thai but we were able to get a simple message across. At the end we felt like did not do as well as we could, or so we thought.

After the Skype, our teacher called all of them back individually and wrote down what they had to say. Ronni said that we spoke Thai very well and that we addressed a specific need of his that he has been lacking in, focusing on the Savior during sacrament. He said that because of his calling as Ward Mission Leader, he often gets distracted with responsibilities. So I had an impression to invite him to read Alma 7:11-12, one of my favorite atonement scriptures, when he partakes of the sacrament. Before I said that, my companion invited him to think about the Savior, so we were in harmony with our teaching. He told our teacher to keep doing what we are doing, and our teacher told us he never coaches us because he never has to worry about us.

That is not how we feel. We feel like we do not know a lot at all, but we continue to work hard and try our best. I try to learn at least ten to twenty new words a day, as well as a grammar principle. That has been helping with our rate of fluency but still, I wish I could be a lot more ahead than I am now.

Other than that, this week we had TWO Apostles speak to us, Elder Christofferson and Elder Ballard. It is always an amazing experience when get to hear them speak to us, and we can always guess when they are coming. They won't show the speaker preview before and they will wait last minute to bring the MTC president and speaker out on the stand, and then everyone arises and the Apostle waves, it is awesome. The rumor is Elder Oakes is coming either today or Sunday but who knows, he would be our fourth Apostle we have got to see in the MTC. If we had been here a week earlier, we could have seen Bednar but oh well. And Holland ended up not showing up and instead delivering a BYU devotional.

This week I also received news of Grandpa John passing away. Thanks to my amazing Branch Presidency who has made sure everything is ok for me, I was able to send an email to Grandma. I have since heard that my email was read at Grandpa's funeral. I had no idea that it would be that significant at all. The memories I had with Grandpa in Georgia were amazing and I will miss him so much. I know this is a tough time for everyone in the family but like I touched upon in my email, we can find comfort and resilience through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Love you all and thanks for the love too! I can feel it here in Provo!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

First Vision - Week #5

This week nothing much happened, I just continue to try cramming as much Thai in as possible. In the coming weeks I have committed myself to learning about 30 words a day so we will see how that goes. Our grammar is very simple and we try to fit words in an English, not Thai, way. So I also want to learn grammar principles each day.

This week my district has been watching the documentary Two Brothers Two on the Mormon Channel. We watched all the mission episodes and it really got me both pumped and nervous for what is to come. The most helpful episode was the one in Cambodia because it was closest to what Thailand is going to be like but actually more close to Myanmar and Laos if I get to serve there. The episode really taught me just how little of the language you actually learn in here because once you get out there, like the Sunday Night Devotional speaker said, "it is a whole different language than you learned in the MTC" But I am not worried, I know it will come eventually, just have to work up to that point.

The Sunday Night Devotional was a great talk. Chad Lewis, who played for BYU and in the NFL, spoke to us about several different things and also pumped me up for the mission ahead. He tied some great stories about football like jumping over people into the gospel and how we need to prepare do something difficult so that it will just come easy to us. There was also a mission conference that morning and President Burgess brought on a senior couple who was serving in the Belgium mission at the time of those attacks. The Elder was in the airport with those missionaries and was blown back by the explosion, suffering scars all over his body and a broken leg. He said that his testimony remained unchanged, and that even to this day everyday he is happy to wake up. I wish I was that happy to wake up here haha.

Yesterday we went on splits again, we are now doing it every Monday and I was paired with Elder Latimer. Such a funny Elder, he says very random and funny things at random moments and he will not allow anyone to give him a hug, he drops to the floor if you try. We taught a lesson to a less active yesterday (my teacher Brother Saunders) and it was difficult because he spoke so softly. We could tell he wasn't comfortable so we tried to get to know him, which consists of about three conversational questions we know, and then moved into a lesson about enduring to the end. It was hard for us to discern what he needed because we could tell he was so closed. But we did feel impressed to talk about repentance and as it turns out, during the evaluation, Brother Saunders told us he did need that because he had been drinking.

Speaking of Brother Saunders, tomorrow we will lose him to two Laotian Elders reporting tomorrow, our next additions to the zone. He is technically a Laotian teacher because he served in Laos while in Thailand, as well as Brother Hartman who will also be teaching them. We love them both a lot so it is sad that they won't be teaching us anymore, but the Laotian class is just two doors over so we will still see them. New Hmong Elders came in last week, crazy language. They have I think 8 tones and the words sound out very weird. When I got here there was a solo Hmong missionary going to Wisconsin, so having three is different. All Hmong speakers go stateside to places like California and Minnesota. So our zone is slowly rebuilding. Next week we finally get the new Thais and Cambodians. We are not exactly sure how many there will be but there will probably be a district of each.

And to finish, the title of this post is first vision because I was the first Thai elder to memorize it almost a week ago! The tones aren't perfect so I still need to work on that but I have all the words down. Crazy how fast I learned it, I learned the first part one day and then put it away for a long time as I tried to work on reading and then one day worked on it again and had the whole thing memorized, the teachers were impressed. My companion pretty much has it down at this point, I still need to help him with a few words.

Well that concludes what happened this week, nothing much going on in here. Hope everything is going well back at home, love you all!