I really want to write essays to each of you, but ahh..time is so constraining! I hope you are all doing well, and there's so much to say in so little time, but okay, here it goes.
So I finally got here! It's the real deal! We're dealing with saving the souls of our brothers and sisters!!! I must say, there's no greater work for me than to do this right now!!! We flew through LAX, then Hong Kong. We arrived at Bangkok in the morning, and were greeted by President and Sister Senior, and the Assistants. They took us to the Mission Office, and gave us the new missionary orientation. While our stay here, we happened to meet some kind of important church worker from Salt Lake who is in charge of building Temples in Asia!! Rumor has it that they'll announce the construction of a Temple in Thailand any time now. We were hoping for President Monson to announce it this past conference, but hopefully next conference in October.
The next morning, we attended transfer meeting! Missionaries attending this meeting were to be transferred to a new area, and the 6 Thai District Elders that are like brothers to me were dispersed throughout Thailand. All of the missionaries cheered for us as we met our trainers, and were assigned to our first area! The missionaries here are so pumped to do the Lord's work. I also met a lot of missionaries who I somehow have connections to.. What a small world!
I was called in the Chiang-Rai area with Elder Calderon far up in the north! The bus ride took 13 hours from Bangkok!! Most of the other new elders were sent to the East, Northeast, and one remained in Bangkok. My trainer, Elder Calderon hails from Orlando, Florida. He's also 19 years old, and have been in the field for 11 months. To describe him... he's just simply an awesome guy. He's waaay mellow, so we get along so well.
He's a wizard when it comes to speaking Thai, and is also fluent in Spanish. The two of us cover four languages!! Chiang-Rai is a decent sized city popular for tourists. We see a lot of ฝรั่ง (Phalang - foreigners) touring the area! I really.. really love the people here. The KhonThais (People of Thai) are so foreigner-tolerant. They welcome foreigners, and are so friendly to us! People will actually stop when we approach them in the streets and a lot of people show interest in what these two Phalangs wearing white shirts and tie have to say.. hahahah
The food... The food is SO GOOD! I really don't know how to say it any other way but that it tastes SOOO GOOD! Sorry, I don't mean to rub it in or anything.. They are spicy. Reeally spicy.. and they will probably destroy my digestive system, but it is so worth it. Oh, and speaking of food.. I had my first cricket a few night ago for dinner! After street contacting for two hours, we picked up dinner at the marketplace, and they had crickets at one vendor.. Elder Calderon said they taste like french fries. I doubted his comment, and was hesitant at first.. but I tried it.. and it indeed tasted like french fries.. I even forgot that I was eating a bug once I ate it. Oh, and another plus is that things are so cheap here! A water bottle can cost about 7-10 baht. Which is about 30 cents. From what I've heard, the missionaries in Thailand rarely cook because it's way more convenient to eat way good food for cheap!
The weather.. It is very hot and humid here. That is it.. It's hot and humid. I remember hitting a wall of humidity on my first step off the plane in Bangkok. But it's a lot better here in the north, and I so much rather be drenched in sweat than to freeze as I was in Utah for college. The Good Lord knows my need because I wouldn't last the winter in cold countries. I am so grateful!
It seems to me that the people here live more simply. That can possibly be the reason why they respond to the simple, yet wonderful message of Christ. While street contacting, most will turn down the invitation to attend church and be baptized. But even those who turn us down will commonly throw out the phrase, "I'm not interested because I'm Buddhist. But all religions teach people to do good." I am so touched by the kindness of the people here. On my first day, I met a less-active couple in their 60s; Sister Daa and Brother Pong. They're so humble in their testimony. They speak some English, so I'm able communicate with them. They told me that they will be my "Poo Mae" during my mission. Poo Mae means father and mother, or parents. We had lunch at their place a few days ago, and we usually stop by their house because they live close to us.
Oh, and the mission pad is crazy big! I imagined that I'll be living in some small shack with a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.. but nope, it's a really nice place.. Even Elder Calderon was surprised when he first got to the mission pad. It is two-stories with two bathrooms. A kitchen we never use, two living rooms, two bedrooms, and a studyroom. As a missionary, I shouldn't be living in such a big place like this. But it is a huge blessing.
Today, we're riding ostriches with some investigators and members! I heard of riding elephants, but never heard of riding ostriches.. so I'm really looking forward for it! Attached are some of the photos of the journey here, and the first few days out in the field!
Before I close this email, I want to express my sincere thanks to you all. I really appreciate you all and for my Heavenly Father. I am so grateful that He allowed us to cross paths. So that I can learn and grow from you.
Although we are imperfect, I am so thankful that we are brothers and sisters in righteousness. I look so forward to the day that I'll see you again. It is a humbling experience to serve people who come from such a different background. The branch we serve have about 40 members, and the average member has been a member for about 3 years.. For relatively new members, I must say, some really know the Phrakhampii Moormon (The Royal/Sacred Words of Mormon) really well. I had the chance to bear my testimony for a few minutes at sacrament meeting, and I'm pretty sure some parts didn't make sense.. but I'm glad to be here. I never imagined that I can have so much joy in spreading this wonderful message of Christ.
I love you all, and I'll write again next week!
|Elder Calderon, me, Sister Senior, and President Senior. (Sorry Sister Senior, I'm totally in front of you)|
|Outside of the missionary pad|
|Elder Calderon taking me to eat SonTam!! (SO GOOD!)|
|The Mission Pad|
|Thai "french fries" aka circkets|
|Brother Nad, our golden investigator who can't be baptized yet because of parental consent :(|