Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Letter #7 Mahasarakham, Thailand- Sept 29-2009

HELLO! My first moves is over. Boy is moves-time crazy.

At the end of the 6 weeks we get a call on Tuesday around noon. That is when we find out callings/assignments/companions/areas. Everyone is always very nervous and excited. Going to bed Monday night feels a lot like Christmas Eve. Staying focused while studying Tuesday morning was very very hard.

Every Monday we have District Meeting, and at the end of the District Meeting before moves we have a "phayagawn" session. That is the thai word for "prophesy". We have a white-board and everyone makes guesses of what they think will happen in the moves.

The results of moves was rather uneventful. No one from Mahasarakham is moving. Only two people from the entire zone are moving and only 10 people from the easion are even going down to Bangkok. So it is time to get back to work. With that all said and done it means that I wil be in Mahasarakham for at least 2 more moves. (because my companion has to leave next moves, and if he moves I can't move)

With the lack of changing, it sure still feels like a time of change:

The rainy season is about over and we are going into the "cold" season. (notice the quotation marks)
All the beautiful green rice fields are starting to go brown.
The school semester is coming to an end here soon, so Sarakham will be a ghost town.

(On an interesting side note... the word Mahasarakham in Thai means "a great place of learning" because of it's name there are many many many colleges here. The place is packed with students.)

Even the church is changing a lot here! Last week the churches name changed. The word "saint" in Thai was re-translated from "sidichon" to "wisudichon". Now that the name changed, EVERYTHING has to be reprinted. All manuals, books, etc..

They changed many other words too. About 2-3% of the words in the Book of Mormon are going to change too. All the new translated materials should be released at the beginning of next year.

Most of the changes are very good. A lot of gospel words are very very difficult to translate into Thai. The culture is so different and there is just not a simple way to express many of the ideas we have in English.

Words like charity, chastity, prophet, heaven, etc. are very difficult to describe in Thai without giving them a false perception.

Many of the words are simply changing but a lot of them are just being updated so that they are the same as the Bible we use. Since the Thai Bible was translated from the Luther Bible a lot of the words, especially the names, are very weird. So they are updating them to be accurate with the German Translation to confuse less people.

All this change and many other things. Also the year is almost over and the year will change. 2553 seems like it is so far away.
(Another side note: The year is not 2009 here. Our calender system is based of the birth of Christ, there calender system is 543 years different. It is based off of when Buddha reached enlightenment.)
(Yet another side note: This year, 2552, will be the last palindrome year of my life unless I live to be 122 years old.)

Life is fleeting, very fragile and changing. No matter how much we want to think or make it otherwise. We may think that things will be the same in 20 years, but they will not be. Even outer-space, no matter how dominant and stable it may seem, it is always changing; whether or not we can perceive it. Stars will die, universes will collapse, and new solar-systems will be born.

With all these changes I'm so glad that some things do stay the same. The only truly unchanging thing is God. He is constant; he reminds so because he is perfect. He can not vary or sway from the consistency. That is why we can and MUST rely on Him.

In the whirlwind-life that we live in we can always look to God and see a constant. We can pray to Him and be given a rest from the unknown. I am so grateful for the knowledge of God and for the ability to look to Him and feel peace. I know that the only way to feel that true peace is in and through our living, unchanging God.


Elder Brown

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Letter #6 Mahasarakham, Thailand Sept-23-2009

"Phra That Na Dun" from a Buddhist park located in Na Dun district of Maha Sarakham Province

Last week in the moves! Crazy that moves is next Tuesday. Every 6 weeks "moves" happens. That is when the mission president receives revelation on who is going where, with who, and doing what. I'll know in 5 more days if anything is changing for me. I suspect that my district will remain the same, but time will tell!

Today was sports day. The last preperation day in the moves the zone gets together and plays sports. We all met at the church here in Mahasarakham. It was nice not having to go travel anywhere for the activity. We played soccer and ping-pong for a couple of hours and ate together. It was fun. It was nice to get some excercise aside from biking.

On a side note, we do have a ping-pong table in our apartment. Not quite sure where it came from, but whoever was the Elder that bought it, we appreciate it! Not only because we can play ping-pong on it every morning for our 30 minutes of "exercise," but we can also use it as a dinner table! It just so happens that our ping-pong table is the only piece of furniture in the whole house. Joy!

I hope I don't move out of Sarakham this moves. Just thinking that I could be somewhere different in 7 more days is very scary. There is a lot that I still want to do here. I still haven't taken hardly any pictures of this place. I have a feeling that I will be here for 3 more moves though. That is around 4+ more months. Time will tell.

This week has been incredible in terms of people to teach. So far this week (today is Wednesday) we've taught 8 lessons with a member. Lessons with a member is probably the most telling indicator. Lessons without a member are very difficult. Investigators hardly ever understand what we are teaching and are afraid to ask us questions because they feel we won't understand. I am grateful to have a branch that has lots of willing people to help us teach.

Today we were teaching a guy named Dang (means red in Thai), he lives very far outside the city (about 50 kilos), so he has a very hard time understanding our Thai. We would say something to him, he would look very very confused, then Brother Rung would say the exact same thing and he would understand. Thais understand Thais. Silly white people.

On a side note, I have started to enjoy rotten-fish sauce. Pretty much every good dish here in the Esan has rotten-fish sauce in it. It actually has a pretty good flavor. I still can't really eat the fish here... but fish sauce and fish eggs are pretty good.

I've been lucky to have had some time play the piano quite a bit since I have been here. I play the piano every week at church for sacrament meeting, priesthood meeting, and the new investigators class. I even get to practice quite a bit. Whenever Elder Nance and I go to the church to mass-call people (happens once or twice a week) I ususally just play the piano. I'm really happy that I stuck with piano long enough that I can sight-read hymns. The Mahasarakham branch hasn't had a pianist for a couple of years. Many of the members in the branch have never heard hymns sung with a piano until I came.

I have also been using some of my extra time at night and on preperation days to learn the Ukalele. One of the other Elders in my district, Elder Cline, has a Ukalele. I am getting pretty good. I know enough chords that I can play most hymns and primary songs with a little practice. I ordered a Ukalele from Roi-ett, it should arrive in a week or two.

That's all I got for the week. Juhgan next week.


Elder Brown

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Letter #5 from Mahasarakham,Thailand 09/16/09

1. A person who gives up living with his family for two years to teach other people how to live with their family for eternity.

I don't have much time to write anything this week. This week has started out fantastically. Monday was the most successful day I've had on my mission. We had two different investigators(both have families) ask us if they could be baptized and how they do it. That is always a good sign.

We have been getting so many families to teach. I don't know where they have been coming from. Our general inviting approached has changed a lot to completely center around the message of the family. When I talk to someone I ask them about their family, ask them what kind of blessings they have seen from having a family, and why they think we are born into families. I then will usually tell them about the temple and eternal families. Thai people are simply fascinated about the temple. It truely is God's house. He visits it often.

Oh the mericful plan of our loving God...

I'm really grateful for eternal families. Love you all.

Elder Brown

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Letter #4 -Mahasarakham,Thailand-Sept 08 2009

To the left is a picture of a buddhist monastery.

Well. As you guessed. I have like no time today to write anything. I need to start writing more letters so that I have less emails to answer. I'll try to start writing letters so I have more time to write here on this blog.

Anyways. This week was interesting. We set our goals VERY high and had high hopes for this week. But the Lord had a different idea. Half-way through the week we decided it was time for Spring cleaning. We basically got rid of ALL of our investigators that weren't keeping commitments consistently. (we challenged 8 people with baptismal dates in one day)

The old method: find people to teach. The new method: find people that are really interested and ready to be taught. Our inviting technique has been changed a lot the last few days. We invite people quicker and refer quickly and powerfully to the restored message of the Gospel. It seems like the last few days it has been helping, but it is too early to tell.

Letting go of investigators is a hard thing, but it is a very necessary thing. It relates very well to the story of an apple tree.

An apple tree has lots of fruit. The apples ripen at different times. If we spend all of our time waiting for an unripened apple to become ripe, we will waste time. During that time wasted, there will be many apples that will ripen and fall to the ground and rot away. We want to find the apples that are ready.

It requires a lot of trust in the Lord to let people go. Just being here a few weeks I have developed good relationships with some of our investigators. But we have to exercise faith and have hope that God will give us someone better and more prepared to fill their places.

At the moment we have 3-4 investigators that are very committed to baptism and are excited and committed. The rest of our teaching pool is new investigators. We have been finding lots of families lately, which is very weird. It is the best teaching families; we can only offer our "super-deluxe" package to families, exaltation.

Anyways. I have just enough time this week to talk about one of our investigators. His name is Num. He is around 45 years old and would best be described as a hippy. A year ago he drank every day, smoked several packs a day, and was very addicted to coffee. These addictions came when he ran into a hard part in his life.

About 5 years ago he sent his Wife and 2 kids to America for a vacation. He had to stay in Thailand because he had to work. His family never came back.

It is amazing to think that he has come this far. He hasn't drunk alcohol in months. Is down to 2 cigarettes and day and mixes in a small amount of coffee in hot chocolate each morning.

He reads at least 2 chapters in the Book of Mormon a day. He prays at least 7 times a day. He has a sincere desire to be baptized.

He is such a great guy. I hope he makes it into the water some day soon. His life has been turned around so much by the Gospel.

I've gotta run. Next week I'll try to make more time to write. Later!!


Elder Brown

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Letter #3 from Mahasarakham,Thailand Sept-2-09

The first part of Danny's letter got lost somehow, so this is it for this week!

Danny sent home this picture of a spider with this explanation...

Yes that is a spider. The coin next to it is about twice the size of a quarter. That thing jumped at me while I was in the bathroom. Joy!

Cont-So, you know how they say there is a Starbucks on every corner in the US? I think that is a bit of an exaggeration... But I think it is a safe and accurate statement to say that there is a 7-11 on every corner in Thailand. It is insane. Not sure why the Thai's love their "sewen" so much. But they do. Anyways.

Yesterday, we went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders. Elder Israelsen came here to Mahasarakham and Elder Nance went to Roi-et with Elder Christiansen. It was a great experience for me! Elder Israelsen is such a great guy. He has been out for almost 2 years. He is from Logan, Utah. He really pushed me a lot, especially when we were out inviting. He made me do a lot of talking, it was fun and helped me grow.

A monk actually came up and talked to us. We told him about Joseph Smith and gave him a pass-along-card. He was very interested! He told us he would give us a call and have us come teach all the monks at his temple sometime. I hope he does! That would be very great... As long as we are invited, I think it is ok. Plus, it was a Zone Leader who did it... so it has to be ok!

I have to go! Sorry my email was so short this week. Hope all is well at home. Love you all.


Elder Brown