Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Week 20: A little bappin' never hurt nobody!!

Another week come and gone. I'm starting to feel like this whole mission thing is moving way faster than I'd like and I'm not sure how I feel about it. This week has been a good one. I know I say that every week, but this week has really, actually been a good week. No strings attached. Just awesome things happening. After going to Bangkok AGAIN to get my visa renewed, I was told on the same day getting back that I'd be baptizing one of our investigators, Brother June. I can't remember if I've talked about him before but let me give you guys a run-down on Brother J. This guy is a stud. He's in his 20's and works here in Ubon. He's had a lot of family issues growing up, so the gospel has blessed his life in more ways than can be described in words.Anyway, he used to have a serious problem with the Word of Wisdom. He just couldn't quit drinking coffee! We would call him almost everyday and see if he had drunken any and he almost always told us that he had. We talked to him over and over again about how he needed to stop if he wanted to get baptized, but he just couldn't get himself to do it. I was about ready to give up on him. And then all of a sudden, after what I'm sure was years and years of relying on coffee, he stopped. He just stopped drinking it. It was a miracle. If there's any answer to how it was made possible, it's though the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the reasons I know I was sent to Ubon is because of Brother J. I feel like I've learned more from him than he's learned from me and I'm so grateful the Lord has placed me in his path.

After the baptism, we had to go to Roi-Et for Stake Conference. Honestly, the main reason I liked being there was because I got to talk to the other missionaries and members that went. I'm convinced that Thailand has some of the best people in the world- members, missionaries, and random strangers on the street. I know this comment doesn't do much for those back home, but it's true! Some of the best jokes and conversations I've been a part of have been here in Thailand. The people here make this mission what it is. Anyway, what stood out to me from this conference wasn't necessarily anything the speakers said, but what I got to see from the members and missionaries there. I saw how strong of a faith these people had in the gospel. There lives were changed through the Savior. I could see it in their overall countenance. They all loved to be happy. So in conclusion, I encourage you all to stay happy during this Christmas season! let others see how happy this gospel makes you! Out of all the things that can bring you down, remember the Savior and what He did for you so that you can be lifted up again. True happiness comes from the gospel. Nothing else. I love you guys and I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Rawlinson

Week 19: Bangkok and Soccer

Sawadiiiii! This week has been another crazy one. On Tuesday, I had to go to Bangkok with my companion since he had a meeting at the mission office there. Since he's dying (going home) next transfer, they trained everyone dying with him about how to "adjust to life back home". Anyway, we had to take a 10 hour train ride to get there and then another 10 hour train ride back to Ubon. Fun stuff. On the train home, we were able to chat with an old lady for about a half hour about our church. We told her about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and about how our church has the fullness of the gospel through the Restoration. She seemed interested in our message. Anyway, when Elder Anderson and I told her that we knew what we shared was true, she said something that really stood out to me. She said (and I'm summarizing) "well, that's great that you know these things to be true, but doesn't mean much to those who don't". When she said that, I was surprised and taken back a little. I felt like I just got slammed. Shut down. This little old lady wasn't afraid of saying what was on her mind. We told her how she could find out for herself that what we shared with her was true by reading the Book of Mormon and asking Heavenly Father in prayer. That was the first time I've experienced something like that on my mission. That lady has made me look at how I bear testimony differently. Am I just telling people what I know to be true because I'm supposed to as a missionary or am I doing so because I want to help others know for themselves the truth? It's one thing to say you know the church is true, but it's another thing to do so in a way that makes others want to find out themselves.

On Saturday, we had a sports activity with the ward in Sisaket. They had soccer and volleyball and a "drama performance" thing for all of us. The entire activity was set up as a competition against Sisaket (another ward in the zone). It got really intense. Me and Elder Finlayson (one of the elders in my district) got to help out the ward play soccer against this other ward..... and we got wrecked. Their team had like 6 short, little 15 year olds play against us and they were all super good. Don't get me wrong, it was way fun, but Finlayon and I underestimated these kids and totally got destroyed. For the rest of the day, we were so exhausted. It made me realize how out-of-shape I've gotten as a missionary and how good Thai people are at soccer lol. It was a good activity because it allowed the members in Ubon and the members in Sisaket to support each other and have a good time. 

Last thing. With Christmas coming up, we've been focusing more on sharing the message of the Savior's birth with others. Not gonna lie, Christmas here is different. Most of the people here are Buddhist and it still feels like summer. I don't get to hear Christmas music in stores or see Christmas lights hung up on houses or go see temple lights with my family, but the message of the holiday is still the same. No matter where missionaries are all over the world, Christmas reminds us of the Savior's birth. It's so different for me this year because instead of focusing on the gifts, the lights, even the music, I get to focus just on the birth of Jesus Christ. That's it. That's all there really is to it. No excessive candy cane, stockings, or presents. Just the birth of the most important person who has ever lived. And I get to share that with others everyday until the 25th. I wouldn't trade this Christmas for anything in the world. I encourage you all to always remember the greatest gift of all- a Savior sent to us from Heaven. He literally died for us guys. He sacrificed his soul, his body, his entire being, so that we could live again. So that we could feel whole and repent of our sins. What more could we ask for? I love you guys. I hope you all have a great Christmas season. Stay safe and have a great week! 

Elder Rawlinson

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Week 18: Where to start.....

This week's been insane! It's honestly been one of the craziest weeks of my life. On Monday, we went to the zoo for P-day. I got to hold this huuuuuge python and this weird looking raccoon thing. I'll attach pics. We took a tour of the zoo on a big golf cart and saw a whole bunch of random animals, lions, tigers, zebras, giraffes etc. For some reason, there were barely fences to keep these animals away from everyone, but it made the whole thing ten times cooler. On Wednesday, Thailand had a national holiday called "Loy Grah Tong". Basically what happens is that people here buy lanterns and float them off in the sky (like In Tangled). Unfortunately, Ubon wasn't allowed to do it this year because of fire hazards and the chance of them hitting planes. They were still able to float lanterns off in lakes and rivers though. Loy Grah Tong is a Buddhist holiday and since 95% of the people here are Buddhist, it was a pretty big event. We tried to contact people there but there were so many things going on that it was hard to find anyone.

On Thursday, our ward had a Thanksgiving meal at the church. It wasn't anything like Thanksgiving back home but the message of gratitude was still the same. It was awesome. We put on a Thanksgiving play with some of the members of what happened when the Pilgrims got to America. I don't even think half of the play was accurate but it was still a good time for sure. The ward here is so crazy. I don't know how to describe it but basically people here aren't afraid of being themselves and just having a good time with everyone. So many people in the ward just have really funny personalities. They aren't afraid of saying what's on their mind. They'll turn insults into good laughs. I've been roasted here almost everyday. For example, since I'm half Chinese half white, a lot of people think I have a "white" nose, which are apparently way bigger than Asian noses. Anyway, they'll turn this into a joke and tell me that I look like I got a nose job because of it. And they always call my companion the leader of North Korea so there's that. I think we're all just used to this kind of stuff now honestly. Sorry if this email is all over the place, I'm just trying to get all my thoughts down. On Saturday, we were able to harvest rice for one of the members again. We also tried to fish our lunch with nets. That was.... interesting. We found a pond on the member's property and just tried to catch some fish by throwing the net in the water. We were horrible. We caught like 6 baby fish. One of the locals eventually came over and helped us out. As missionaries, we weren't allowed to go in the water so our help was very limited. Anyway, it was still good that we were there that day to support the members and help them out with the rice picking. 

We had four baptisms on Sunday!! Woohoo! We've finally been able to get some baptisms in with the other missionaries here. One of the sisters that got baptized was Sister Gai. I contacted her about a month ago at one of the parks close by and it's been awesome to see her progress. She's 27 and works here in Ubon. She's really quiet and really short, but she's funny and she's always in a good mood haha. When I first met her, I had a strong impression to go up and talk to her. It's crazy to think that if I wasn't where I was at the time I was, she wouldn't have been able to get baptized. I'm so grateful that the Lord was preparing her to hear the gospel. I love this work. The good ALWAYS outweighs the bad. Always. Anyway, I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! There's so much to be thankful for this time of the year!

"Happiness is not in obtaining what you want, but in wanting what you have." -Joseph L Bishop

Elder Rawlinson

Week 17: The Field is Yellow Already to Harvest

Hey everyone! It's been another solid week here in Ubon! On Tuesday, my district got to help out some of the members in the ward harvest rice. It was so much fun! We got to their place and they had lunch all set up for us. We ate and went straight to the rice fields to start picking. The harvest season only lasts a short time so they needed all the help they could get. If you guys remember in my email a few weeks ago, I was confused how they were able to harvest rice out of grass/ Anyway, it turns out that the rice just grows of the ends of the grass and when they're ready to be harvested, they start to drop down a little. Basically, their like grapes on a grape branch thing. They gave us knives to cut down the grass and we would stack them in piles on the ground for them to collect later. Not gonna lie, it was hard work in the sun, but worth it for sure. We're going again on Saturday because another one of the members really needs help harvesting. And yes, I basically look like a rice farmer out in the fields so I'd say I blend in pretty nicely.

Other than that, we were able to teach a lot of lessons this week. Our investigators are doing well and the work in general is moving forward. We've been focusing on our recent converts and less-actives lately. They're all great people, they just need a little nudge here and there so they stay on the right path. We want them to all be at church more often, so we do our best to support them and help them feel the Spirit. This, in return, gives them a desire to get to church. I think supporting them, along with all the members here is so important. This week, I've started a new thing where I try to get an investigator, member, less-active, etc to come eat with us. I try to find someone different everyday. It sounds dumb, but I think it actually makes a pretty big difference. It helps us get to know the people better and it allows them to trust us more. We can see how they're doing personally and ask for referrals etc. It also allows me to practice speaking Thai for an extra hour so that's a plus too. I've started an "idea book" as well. Every time I find a scripture I like, I'll write it down in this book. Every time I find a quote I like, I'll write it down. I write down things I need to remember as a missionary and I write down things that help me become a better person. In this sense, I can always go back and read through things I've written down rather than just forgetting what I've learned. I encourage you all to start one. Just find a small notepad and keep it with you everywhere you go. It'll bless your life just as it has for mine. 

One last thing that I found this week that I want to share with you guys. The word for "convert" in Thai is ผู้เปลียนใจเลือมใส (phuuplianncaylxamsay). It's a very long word, that's for sure. Anyway, the direct translation of this word means "someone who changes their heart in a way as to believe in something whole-heartedly, being thoroughly convinced in that belief". I think that's who a convert really is. A convert isn't someone who goes to church every Sunday and does what their supposed to because they grew up in the church, it's someone that truly believes and lives the gospel to the best of their ability. Thai is seriously the coolest language. I learn more about the gospel and I learn more of the language. Hope you all have a great week! Omni 1:26.