Monday, December 28, 2009

Ubon Ratchathani - Dec-28-2009

Merry Christmas (belated) from Thailand from Our missionary group!

Hi All,
It was great to talk to the family a couple days ago! My Dad found a way to connect to my sister who is in New Zealand right now, so we all got on the phone and talked at once! It was great to hear from you all! No I am not homesick!
A little more about my new area: Ubon Ratchathani, It is beautiful here! It is more populated than my last area. Members here actually have cars! It is one of the largest provinces in Thailand. There are many Buddhist temples all around this place, because of this Ubon is where people travel to at the beginning of Buddhist Lent. The province borders the Mekong River in the east and you can supposedly see Cambodia. This is probably as close to Nate as I can get! (I have a friend serving in Cambodia) Hi Nate!
My companion and I are doing well and I am trying to get used to a new area! It is different! We are still on our bikes, Yes my bike survived the trip here without mishap. We are living in an apartment meant for 4 elders, but there are only 2 of us here. So we have lots of space and it is really nice.
Out of time, more later,
Keep praying for me.

Elder Brown เอ็ลเดอร์ บราวน์

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dec 16-2009

(Note from Mom): Danny tells us that he just lost this letter, cause his email crashed, but luckily he had saved it previously in word, so we got to hear from him this week! sigh...

If you would like to write to Danny, he would love to hear from you. It may take a while to get to him, since all letters go to the mission home. (4 weeks or so) Here is the address!!!

Elder Daniel Elling Brown
Thailand Bangkok Mission Home
50/829-832 Muang Thong Thani
Chaengwatana Road, T.
Ban Mai A., Pakkret, Nonthaburi 11120


The news came. I will be moving out today. Elder Booth will also be leaving Sarakham. They are merging the areas together, so Elder Gardner and Elder Murphy will be serving together. Where I am going? I am still not sure...

I don't know if I have ever really explained it before... but in Thailand they have what is called a "moves meeting." Apparently Thailand is one of the few missions left in the world that still has a moves meeting. Once every six weeks everyone in the mission (or close to everyone) goes to Bangkok to meet together. The meeting consists of mission announcements, trainings, etc.. But the highlight of the meeting is they announce who is serving with whom and in what area. It really is quite exciting. We also get the opportunity to hear from the Elders that are leaving the mission and the Elders who are just coming in.

That will be happening tomorrow. But two days before the meeting, the assistants call to let you know if anyone is moving, so that they can pack. So I know I'm going, I just don't know where. From the inside information that I have gathered (my last companion is an AP...), I think that I will be having a native Thai companion this next moves. I really hope that I do. That will help my Thai immensely. I can communicate right now; I just sound like a Yankee. Also, it is very hard for the older generation to understand me (mostly because they can't even speak Thai themselves.) I did pick up a Laotian phrase book, so maybe that will help too. It is a very, very silly language. It is easier pronounce than Thai; but, there are more tones so that doesn't help at all.

Things I am going to miss about Sarakham:

Being out in the middle of nowhere -- Seriously though, I feel bad for people who don't have missions where they get to bike on dirt paths through rice fields while trying to wade their way through huge bamboo plants. This place is so simple. Many of the people here only work 2-3 months out of the year growing rice, then they just sit on their butts and enjoy the sun the rest of the year. It doesn't get much better than that. I will be an Easan kid the rest of my life. My accent sounds like I am from the middle of no where. That is because I am!

The investigators -- I have taught so many good people here! So many bad people too... But I really have been blessed. We have always had people to teach. I am thankful to the Lord for entrusting me with all the people that I have been able to teach here. I hope that I have taught them as much as they have taught me. Special shout outs go to Num, Jawng and his family, On, Em, Awy and her family, Man, Jimmy, Go, Dang, Oo, Wirwit and Samli.

Talking with college kids -- Sarakham is full of college kids. They really are my favorite people to talk to. The younger generation is so blunt. They will tell you straight up what they are thinking. If they are not interested they will reject you. Which is the biggest blessing ever. They also tend to be more open and less set in their ways.

The good times I had with the missionaries that I served here with -- Elder Nance, Elder Gardner, Elder Booth, Elder Murphy, and Elder Cline. Have a lot of good memories with them. I have been up and down every street in this city multiple times. Just looking down streets brings back memories; memories of good times and memories of bad times. all of which are blessings and have taught me lessons that will last me the rest of my life.

The members -- The members here are fantastic. The Lord has really been preparing them. A lot of changes are happening in the mission right now, mostly because the country has to reduce missionary numbers by over 40 Elders. This is the reason that the other area in Sarakham is being closed. All areas will be 2 Elder areas. This means that the members will have to pick up the rest of the work. I think they are ready. When I came in, they were very reliant on missionaries. Our vision here in Sarakham has been to strengthen Priesthood holders and prepare them to worthily fulfill service callings in the church. I can honestly say that are active Priesthood holders has doubled in size. They are ready. Some of the members I will miss the most:

Brother Bong: he is the 1st counselor in the branch presidency, church grounds keeper, Sunday school president, and assistant branch clerk. He is about 45 years old. He is also almost deaf, so when he goes teaching with us, it is hilarious. He never knows what we are talking about so he always testifies about the wrong thing. He is your typical Thai guy. He owns a rice selling shop in the city. I will miss his willingness to always help the Elders.

Sister Nog: is the Primary President. She is a convert of 4 years. She converted after the spirit talked to her on multiple occasions until she had no choice but to join. I am glad the Lord had her here. She is the go to person in Sarakham. She will help you all day, any day, with anything. She knows how to fix any problem. If you kick a soccer ball through a neighbor’s window, she can help you. If you break the faucet of your kitchen sink, she can help you. If your washing machine breaks and you need a new one, she can help you. If you have a craving for chocolate, she can help you. If you don't know how to find an investigators house, she can help you. She is a very great teacher and I love teaching with her because she can explain things so simply (she teaches primary.) She will be going to Salt Lake next year to go to the temple. You should try to meet her.

Brother Chaa: is a recent convert. He got the priesthood the week that I came in. He is just a cool guy. He is 22 years old and really kind. He always tries to pay for stuff for us and buys us stuff all the time. Teaching him is really interesting. I wish I could speak Thai better so I could understand his personality better. His native language is actually Cambodian though... I hope to stay friends with him in the future.

Brother Bawn: is actually a member in Galasin(a city about an hour away.) He goes to school in Sarakham and helps us teach whenever he is here. He is so willing to help with anything. He will be graduating college this year and will be going on a mission in April. I hope I get to be companions with him! The first lesson I ever taught in Thailand he was helping us teach. He is an all-around great guy.

Sister Ud and her family: one of the few active families in the branch. Sister Ud, Brother No, Sister Meen, and Brother Egg. They are all great. They all have leadership callings in the branch. Sister Ud has a restaurant that we eat at almost every day. I will miss their dedication to the gospel. They also have another daughter that is out serving a mission right now.

Brother Salad and his family: are awesome! Don't worry his name isn't salad; salad actually means pirate in Thai, which makes him ten times cooler. He has a wife and two young boys. Him and his wife both speak English fluently. They both served missions and are sealed in the temple. When I got here he was inactive. He hadn't been to church in about a year. We started teaching him and just showed that we cared about him and he came back. He hasn't missed a week of church the last seven weeks since he has been back. We have even got him to start teaching with the Elders again. The other day he told me a joke in English. "Why does Nephi come to pass so often?" "Because he likes to play Football." I thought it was hilarious... I wish him all the success in the world.

President Sumaid -- is all you would ever want from a Branch President. He is a young guy, about 30 years old. He is unmarried. He is a return missionary. He understands how missionary work is supposed to work. He is always willing to help us. His fire is amazing; I just hope my next area will have a president comparable to him.

It has been a great five months. I'll miss you Sarakham.


เอ็ลเดอร์ บราวน์ ( Elder Brown )

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Letter # 14- Dec 02-09

Dear friends and family,

Weeks go by so fast. I can't believe that tomorrow is my six month mark. It really feels like I just got here.

I just ate a delicious Japanese suki buffet and am in very high spirits. Hopefully I will be able to take a nap today too!

Things are going really well here. It is really great, I am really starting to see the fruits of my labors from the last 3-4 months that I have been here. Now that I have been here this long, I have been able to see people that I invited progress all the way through the lessons and start preparing for baptism. It is really special to have known investigators all the way through their progression.

One thing that I have been convinced of since I have been out here is that God has a plan for everyone. Missionaries are here to find the elect. That really is the absolute truth. I'll tell two stories to illustrate the point.

First story:

There was a guy named Wichian. We owns a school supply store close to our apartment. He is in his late 40's and his kids have moved out of his house. We scheduled an appointment to come back and see him. When we got there, he accepted us in. We taught him a very relaxed, unthreatening lesson. We just taught about the importance of Jesus, and why "white people worship him." We tried to make the lesson as comfortable for him as possible. We gave him a commitment to read a pamphlet and the sermon on the mount in 3 Nephi. We set up an appointment for the three days later. We came back, and to our surprise he had read everything. We then taught him the Restoration. We told him that Joseph Smith had seen God and that he could prove it for himself. He started laughing at us. His wife came over and started rebuking us for wasting their time. We bore fervent testimony and left him with a parting notion to repent and come unto Jesus. I don't think I have ever delivered such strong testimony in my life. His heart was completely closed. He did not give us a chance. The member that we brought to help us teach was crying. Wichian however, was not interested in the slightest to continue to listen to us. He gladly ushered us out his door. (well not really his door, because they don't have doors here.)

This man was not prepared. He is not the elect.

Second story:

About 3 months ago Elder Nance and I were inviting in a neighborhood that is on the opposite end of town over by an art university called Maw Gaw. I had never been there before. (now I've been everywhere... literally I have been down every street in this whole city, that is not an exaggeration) We had a lot of our lessons fall through that day which left us with 3-4 hours of inviting in the middle of the day. Lots of rejection. We decided we were just going to take a break and go have dinner. (typically we did not eat dinner, we just worked through it and then ate at 9:00 when we got home) But we decided that we were going to work down one last street. On this street I remember 3 guys that we talked to. They were terribly rude, terribly intoxicated, and terribly bad at Thai. But then we talked to a middle-aged guy standing outside his house. I still remember his eyes. He just looked sad. He looked like he needed help. We biked over to his side of the street and talked to him, his name is Jawng. He agreed to meet with us that week. We came back to his house, we learned that he had a wife and two kids named Beer(yeah, sad huh?) and Feem. At first, we met with him out side his house, his wife, nog(bird), didn't really like us. His kids loved shaking our hands. (they think it is terribly entertaining to shake hands, it can keep them laughing for hours)

One day (I think it was the third or fourth time teaching them) his wife decided to sit in and listen to us. I don't think either of them were interested at that point, but his wife was interested in having her husband learn because she wanted him to stop drinking. That was the first miracle we saw. They continued to learn but they still were not very interested. They just simply could not understand how this message could bless them. Until one day, we decided that we would focus and teach them nothing but the Restoration of the gospel that Jesus Christ taught through the Prophet Joseph Smith. We taught this lesson for 5 or 6 times straight. One day, while we were watching the Restoration movie, they finally understood it. They finally understood the magnitude of God appearing to a 14 year old boy. That is what started it all; that is, and has to be the foundation of true faith. That was the second miracle.

We continued to teach them, they would listen more, but they were always very distracted by their kids running around. So we decided we would focus on involving their kids into the lessons. We would bring pictures and ask them questions. The nine year old girl, Beer, really caught ahold of the message. She is praying many times a day. She is sharing the message with her friends at school. She is reminding her parents to keep commitments. She is in the Book of Alma in the Book of Mormon (childrens version.) She was the third miracle. They started coming to activities and family home evenings at the church. The met a lot of members and saw how happy they were. They felt very comfortable and happy at church activities. They wanted to become like those people. That was the fourth miracle. We started to teach them the Plan of Salvation, we were explaining where we come from, why we are on this earth, and where we go after we die. They were not very interested, until one day we showed up for our appointment. They weren't there. We called them to find out they were driving to Roi-ett because Jawngs father was on his death bed. He died that next day. He has visited them as a Spirit several times since he has died. This peeked their interest in our message. This was the fifth miracle.

Next we decided we were going to focus on getting them all to church this next week. Jawng and the kids had been to church a few times (late) but Nog had yet to come, because she stayed back and ran their restaurant by herself. We showed up that day and was planning to deliver a wonderful lesson on the importance of going to church, but as we arrived they were very excited to tell us that they would all be coming to church as a family this next week. God had already prepared them, we had to do nothing. That was the sixth miracle. And our luck continued, our investigator that was going to get baptized this week, changed his day to this week. So Jawng and his entire family can come to see the baptism as well. That was the seventh miracle.

Last night we went to teach them. We had planned to teach about Jesus and the important of the atonement in all aspects of life. I brought out my picture book (I have really started to use a lot of visual aids lately, it works really really well) and showed them a picture of Jesus. Jawng started going through the picture book and saw a picture of a temple. The spirit prompted us to teach him about temples. We told him about why we go to temples, what temples are like, and the blessings that await him if he prepares himself. The spirit was very strong and he was simple star-struck. He said "I had no idea that this message was this huge." He really understood the big picture. That was the seventh miracle.

This family has been prepared. They are the elect.

As a missionary, I am finding the people that God has already prepared. The people that are so easy to teach and accept everything you say to them. I am so glad that God is in this work and is helping me at every turn, or else it would be impossible. I have really been trying to pray harder and ask God where the elect are. I ask him to lead me to the right people and to talk to the right people. If I simply find them, they will be baptized. Wish me luck!


Elder Brown