Thursday, November 26, 2009

Letter # 13 - Mahasarakham- Nov 25-09


It amazes me.

People are so different. Everyone has a different story. People are built by these different experiences. When teaching investigators, it is always different. Certain things click with some people, certain things are hard for some people.

It is amazing to see how God works. He works on such an individual basis. He works based on the needs of the individual, yet at the end, they all arrive at the same place. They all receive their answer in different ways, but the answer itself is always the same. That God lives. He micro-manages so perfectly that it appears to be on a macro-scale.

This unifies everyone. These different people are unified, brought into the path of God. As they strive to be fully converted they become more like God. They all arrive at the same place. They all are heading towards perfection. Heading towards truth, heading towards God.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately because of one of our investigators. He will be getting baptized next week! He is a very humble man. He is uneducated by the worlds standards, he can't really speak Thai or read well. He had some very hard problems to deal with. But because of the kind of man he is, all of these obstacles were very easily overcome.

His testimony is simple. He knows it is true because he feels God's love for him. So he will do everything he can to be able to be baptized. At first, He didn't understand the doctrine at all. That does not matter. He was willing to sacrifice everything in order to be obedient. Now his sins will be washed away. It will be an amazing day. The atonement really is infinite.

So how can someone like this gain a testimony? He can't even read. I've decided it comes down to two things. All it comes down to is a desire and humility. Once we have those two things (and maintain those two things), all we have to do is hear the word of God. After that, we WILL gain exhalation if we maintain a desire and a humble heart.

This week was Zone Conference. We had a General Authority come visit, his name is Elder Pratt. He spoke this last conference. He is actually in the South-East Asia mission presidency, so that is always fun.

His words were very interesting. He talked about the prophecy of Daniel, about the stone being cut out of the mountain without hands. (very complicated prophecy, you can look it up if you want, but it is quite confusing) Basically this stone is the gospel, and it has been established by God, and it will fill the whole Earth.

He emphasized on the importance of prayer. Particularly on the importance of kneeling when praying. It was quite a wake-up call.

He also focused on the importance of memorization, which is something I have been slacking on. I have been waiting for the new edition of the Book of Mormon to start memorizing things, but turns out it won't be out until next November... so that is something I will start doing.

Things are changing here in this mission. It has to change. The status-quo is not good enough, and we will improve. Hard, effective work by the missionaries and the members is the only way.

That's it.


Elder Brown

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Letter#12 Bangkok-Nov-17-2009

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand

Hello All,

Crazy week. Lots of work.

So, big event this week was moves meeting. We found out that two people were leaving Mahasarakham. Turns out that Elder Cline and Elder Nance were leaving. We left the area Tuesday afternoon to go down to Bangkok to meet our new companions.

The train ride down was about as good as 10 hour train rides can be (not very good.) But I did manage to get a little sleep. I was very nervous about my new companion and was hoping he would be as good as Elder Nance. I had a great 13 weeks with Elder Nance. I'll miss my daddy.

Side note: There is a big metaphor of play names for certain people. Your trainer is called your dad. You are called his kid. Your second companion is your uncle. If your kid trains you are called his grandparent. Your greeny area is where you are born. Your last area is called where you die. Branch Presidents companions are called the Branch President's wife. Etc.. All very silly.
End side note.

Moves this time was wild. I saw my whole MTC district there. (some of them I hadn't seen since the first day in country) It was a very big moves. Five Zone Leaders were being replaced, a Branch President, and an Assistant to the President. Craziest part of the moves was that my companion, Elder Nance, was called to be Assistant. Very very exciting! He had kept it a complete secret from me, I had no idea! Everyone was pretty shocked, he had kept a really good secret. He will do a great job.

I was assigned a new companion, Elder Gardner. He is a sweet guy. He is from Chandler, Arizona. He has been on his mission for about 16 months. Last moves he trained an Elder from my MTC district, Elder McConckie. I am really excited for this moves, even though it will be short. (it will only be five weeks, and one is already over)

Things have been difficult the last week because he is new to the area. He does not know any of the investigators, members, or locations. So I have been leading the companionship. He is catching on very quickly and I have been able to relax a little bit more. It has been fun to feel what it is like to lead though. All I can say is I am not ready yet. Maybe in another moves or two.

Elder Booth also got a new companion. His name is Elder Murphy, he is from Missouri. He is actually in the group 6 weeks ahead of me, so I know him from the MTC. Cool. So that means inside Sarakham we have Elder Brown, Elder Gardner, Elder Booth, and Elder Murphy. We have a great team here; the Son's of Mosiah would be jealous. :p

Cold season is finally setting in. It is absolutely awesome!!! Yesterday I went the entire day without sweating! It is kinda silly. All of the natives here think it is freezing! So, they wear really big jackets. They also put jackets on all the stray dogs because they believe it gives them good karma!

Cultural note: Speaking of dogs... I don't think I have ever talked about how many dogs there are here. They also think it is really bad karma to kill animals, so they have a really bad problem with dogs/cats. It is gross! They all have a lot of diseases and are so unhealthy you can't touch them. Oh well.

Speaking of Food: Every meal here is served with rice... except occasionally it will be served with noodles. There are different varities of rice though. There is white rice, brown rice, and sticky rice. Sticky rice is crazy good. On top of the rice is usually some sort of meat... pork, chicken, or fish. They eat lots of vegetables here as well. There is usually almost always an egg. Some of the food is bland, but I have found ways to keep things interesting.

Speaking of food. We just left Swenson's. Do you know what Swenson's is? It is a delicious American icecream chain that I never heard about until I got here. Apparently it is all over California. Yay for food chains. So we have all the essential food chains here! (I understand my friend Nate serving in Cambodia doesn't have any of these luxuries) In my city we have a couple 7-11's, a Swensons, a KFC, and a McDonalds. Everything a person needs to be happy.(Sorry Nate):{

I was writing to someone else and told her that you learn a lot on a mission.
And I thought I would share that thought with you guys as well. I told her that I
think that God invented missions to build strong members, not to gain new members. Because if God wanted to gain new members, He could just do it. I think it is designed to be more of a learning experience for the missionaries to prepare us as future leaders/fathers. God wants it to be hard, to help prepare us for life. I feel like my perspective of a lot of things has grown so much. I don't know how I would have ever gained such insight without this mission experience.

That's all I got.

Enjoy America.


Elder Brown

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Letter #11-Sarakham-Nov-11-09


End of my second "moves" here in country. That means that I am officially out of my training period. That also means that I will be going down to Bangkok today. We received news from the president that I'll be staying here in Sarakham with Elder Booth, and we will both be receiving new companions. We will get to meet them tomorrow.

Also exciting news. Today we will be taking a train from Kohn-kan, so that means we will be eating at T-bones. I have never eaten there, but I have heard the legends. It is an all-you-can-eat steak restaurant. Pork, beef, chicken, mashed potatoes, rolls, etc.. I am currently very excited. I have not had mashed potatoes in 6 months.

On that note. I have really been eating a lot of food lately. People in Thailand are all very very generous and they are very into food. Since Elder Nance is leaving the area after being here for 6 months. Everyone wants to take him out to eat and buy him stuff. Needless to say, I get to come along for the ride. We have been eating multiple meals a day at very expensive restaurants(expensive is relative) and eating so much that we can't move. It has been a good week! Well at least so far... I have not gone to 7-11 to weigh myself yet. (yeah... you go to 7-11 to weigh yourself here... weird, huh?) I probably gained a kilo or two.

On other good news we had a baptism this week. A lady named Dang. She is sweet. She is so Easan (basically the equivalent of being a hick.) She doesn't really even speak Thai, so it is hard. She bore her testimony in Easan after the baptism though, so that was fun to hear. Her husband will most likely be getting baptized in a few weeks. He is so great. I have great hope for him. They both come to church every week. They live about 60 kilos away, so it takes about 90 minutes to ride their motorcycle. They have great faith.

The second part of this letter was lost by email problems on Danny's end. He says he sends letters in parts because if they get too long they don't send.
the third part says

Letter Part 3:
Oh Thai. It really is quite fun! Thai is getting really fun now. I am really starting to be able to read fast. I am hoping to finish the Book of Mormon in Thai in another 2 months. I can read about as fast as most of the members here. (that isn't saying too much though... most people here have difficulty reading :)

An educational fact about Thailand; They don't have HALLOWEEN! I totally forgot that Halloween already happened. They have a holiday called rooy gratong though. It is almost at the same time. Fun holiday, too bad I didn't understand any of it. Something about worshiping a river Goddess and sending your sins up in flaming kites into the sky. Yeah, weird. Interesting way to get rid of sins! I am sure the Thai people would think our Halloween traditions very strange also. It is all good fun.

Well out of time,
Thailand is so sweet. Everyone should get a chance to come to this place. This place is so pretty. You have to come here sometime.
It really is the best place on Earth.
Church is true,

Elder Brown

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Letter #10-Kohn-gahn-11-04-09


Long day of traveling today. Have you ever noticed that traveling makes you really tired? I think I finally figured out why. Driving in a car/bus/train/etc. makes you bump around a lot. You have to use a lot of muscles to keep your body in the same place. Very exhausting, especially in Thailand. Buses in Thailand are pretty "sketch" usually. Typically the floors are made out of wood and the ceilings are made out of aluminum (makes for nice hot temperatures in the sun.) Sometimes they have air conditioning, sometimes they have fans, and sometimes they have nothing but windows that don't roll down...sigh.

Luckily today was a really good bus, we had air and nice comfortable seats. Today for preparation day we had a zone activity in Kohn-gahn at the king cobra farm/reservation. Yes, cobra farm! It was fairly amusing. Lots of big snakes. They put on a snake show where guys would battle with the snakes. It looked terribly dangerous. That is a big difference between Thailand and America. If I saw that farm in America, I wouldn't be too worried. I would know that the trainers were licensed and that everything was perfectly safe; but in Thailand things are different. Most of the trainers had missing fingers, and their was no safety precautions. Fun stuff.

Needless to say, that took up the majority of my day today. Meaning I only have about 5 minutes to write this email. So sorry again, I seem to always be out of time. I should have time to share one story.

I've figured out the number one problem of missionary work. People do not understand the Restoration. People do not understand that we believe that we are the only true church. People do not understand the magnitude of Joseph Smith seeing God and Jesus face to face.

Once they understand the restoration, they are faced with a choice. They either have to think we are crazy or they have to investigate further. There really is no middle ground. Either Joseph Smith saw God or he didn't. If he didn't oh well.... If he did, that is a pretty significant event that should effect most peoples life. Once they understand the restoration, the rest of our message has meaning. The rest of the doctrine is so significant because if Joseph Smith saw God, then the rest is true.

Anyways, we have been teaching nothing but the Restoration lately. Over and over again until people get it. We had success with this method with a family we are teaching. They weren't very interested. We had been teaching them for about 3 weeks, and they were very complacent, but once they understood the restoration they wanted to meet with us, they wanted to keep commitments.

To make a long story short, they started praying as a family. Last time we saw them we had their 9 year old daughter say the closing prayer of the lesson. It was a very powerful experience.

I know that through the Prophet Joseph Smith the Gospel was restored to the earth. I know he saw and talked to God and Jesus Christ! I am so grateful for this knowledge and testimony.

Anyways, I got to go. Talk to you in a week, I'll be in Bangkok next week for moves. See you then. Love you.


Elder Brown