Monday, March 7, 2016

Week 32: The Spirit is so important guys! March 27, 2016

A lot has happened this week. Elder Bryson and I are still looking for those ready to accept the gospel. We've been able to work with some new people recently and it's been a blessing to share the gospel, but it's also been frustrating and hard at times. I'm going to let you all know right now, I'm gonna try and write these emails about what I'm experiencing here honestly and truthfully. I don't believe in writing emails just to have you all think that the mission in Thailand is perfect and fun every second of the day. I'm gonna tell it how it is and if that bothers you, then no one's forcing you to read these. It's been hard. Yes, there's been countless miracles out here and great things that have happened but it's still way hard. I'm constantly reminded that people have their free agency to choose and accept what they want as they please and though it may not be the way I want it, it's not up to me. Elder Bryson and I have gotten a lot of new investigators, but most of them aren't truly interested (for example, Brother Kuad I wrote about last week), are busy on Sundays so they can't come to church, or a combination of both. We'll keep on searching. I know there are people in this area who are ready to accept the Gospel, I have to be in-tune with the Spirit so that I can find them.

That leads me to my next topic. The Spirit. If you don't have the Spirit with you, then you're essentially wasting your time as a missionary. Lately, I've been wanting the Spirit with me more than ever so that I can be led to those ready to accept the Gospel and so that investigators can feel it and be interested in continuing to learn with us. So on Friday, we went to Udon for Zone training and it helped me realize that I wasn't where I wanted to be as a missionary. I realized I had to make some changes. I prayed and told Heavenly Father I wanted to do this work His way. I told Him I was sorry for doing things my own way and after I prayed and told Him a few other things, I felt better. I felt at peace and I felt love from Heavenly Father. That evening, we went and invited at our usual place and I noticed how much more I had the Spirit with me. I could feel the Spirit testifying of the truth of what I said. It was amazing. While we were contacting, I ran into a woman named Ying and she agreed to meet at the church the next day. At the end of our meeting with her that following day, I felt the Spirit so strongly and I know she felt it too. It wasn't until I had faith in the Lord, humbling myself before Him and repenting, was I then able to have the Spirit with me to do His work. I'm grateful for this experience I've had this week and we're planning on meeting with Ying on Tuesday. It's not about me and how I want to do this work, it's about the Lord and the people here and how He wants me to do this work. You'd think I'd get that by now but I'm still learning this principle. I hope you all have had a great week. I know this work is real. I know that God lives and loves us. There is happiness that comes from the Gospel not found anywhere else. Don't get me wrong, Thailand is a way awesome mission and it's way fun, but the mission is HARD and salvation isn't easy. I love you all and I hope you guys have a great week!

Elder Rawlinson

Haha my companion getting coconut ice cream, he's obsessed
And this is a pic from when we were riding our bikes the other day! 
I order Tom Kha Gai the other day. This is what it looked like!

Week 31: And the search continues! February 29, 2016

Hello everyone! Sorry I didn't write a group email last week. These past two weeks have been a bit different for me. We've been contacting more than usual since we don't have any solid investigators right now. It's been hard, but manageable. There's a shopping center that we usually go to and we'll go and contact people there. I've ran into quite a few people from Lao at that shopping center since the border is right by us and a lot of them come over here to Nong Khai to do their shopping. Elder Bryson and I are planning on getting a Lao dictionary so we can start speaking Lao with them. For the most part, the Laos I've ran into can understand and speak Thai. Lao is somewhat similar to Thai, but different. It's basically like ghetto Thai. Anyway, we've been finding and finding and we've been able to teach new people, but most of them just aren't truly interested. I'm gonna be completely honest, it's been a bit frustrating because of how much time we've spent contacting, but I know there really are people in this area who are ready to receive the gospel, we just have to keep pressing forward and continue searching!

.....That's not to say we haven't seen serious MIRACLES here in Nong Khai! Yesterday was full of them. Elder Bryson and I went to a neighborhood to track down some LAs and as we were headed to one of their houses, I hear someone yell at me. It was a man who apparently remembered me from a few weeks back named Kuad when Elder Bryson and I went into the office that he worked in to get a map of Nong Khai. I asked if he had some time to talk and we taught him a little bit about our message. Here's the best part... he was interested! After we talked with him about our message, he showed us where he lived. I then saw him pull out a cigarette. For some reason, I asked if he wanted to get rid of them and he agreed. He handed over the cigarettes. Just like that. He's interested in learning more and we're meeting with him either tonight or tomorrow tonight... AND he doesn't have to work on Sundays so he said he could go to church! YES!! We were in the right place at the right time and because of that, we now have a new investigator to teach!

Last night, Elder Bryson and I also went and taught an LA named Brother P. We sat down with  Brother P outside of his house and his two kids later came out as well. We decided to teach his kids on the spot (Brother P is the only member in his family). We taught them about Heavenly Father and about prayer. After we taught them about prayer, we wanted to see if they could do it on their own. They seemed to need a little guidance so Brother P was there to encourage and help them out. It was so cool. Even though Brother P's LA, seeing him as a father show his kids how to pray was such an amazing experience that I will never forget. When the kids didn't know how to start and end their prayer, he'd help them out and they'd follow after what he said. He was there to encourage them. It was something so special and I'm glad I got to be there for that experience. Nothing short of a miracle. Families are forever and I hope that those two kids accept the gospel and get baptized in the future. I'm blessed to see and be apart of some amazing things here. One of my friends, Lisa Skousen, who's on a mission as well, said it best in her email. She said "There are so many incredible experiences every day--there
is no way I could call this a sacrifice. It's just an honor and a privilege to be out serving the Lord". That statement is so true. I love you guys and I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Rawlinson

Today for P-day we went for a canoe ride in a lake for of lotuses!
And last P-day we went to a crocodile farm and they had a crocodile show that we watched!

Week 29: LA Hunting in Nong Khai, February 14, 2016

This week has actually felt like one of the longer weeks I've had since being here in Thailand. We've been working pretty hartrying to find people to meet with. If you guys read my email from last week, you know that I'm now in a new area called Nong Khai. It's been a lot different than my greenie area of Ubon. It's smaller and for the most part, crazier than Ubon. I can't really explain how it's so crazy. There's just things that I see and hear that make days in Nhong Khai anything but boring. For example, on Sunday I was looking for a room in the church to teach our investigators and I peak into the window of the door to see one of the rooms and I see a member just laying down on the ground getting a massage from one of the other members. As if it's not even a weird thing at all to get a massage after church... in the church building haha. People here speak a Thai dialect called Esan. It's similar to the dialect that they speak in Ubon, but I feel like it's a little different. Sometimes Esan just sounds like noises that people make like "UGHHH' or "UYYYYYY" or something like that. I can pick up some of it, but for the most part people here understand standard Thai and usually speak that with the missionaries.

In other news, Elder Bryson and I have really been focusing on working with LAs (less-active) this past week. We printed out the membership roster (which has over 200 members on record) in the beginning of the transfer and we've been "hunting" for a lot of LAs on there. One of them that we found was Sister Anne. We found her place which is only about a minute away from our house. Her daughter and mom are LA as well. We met with her a few times this past week and she came to church yesterday. What a miracle. Missionaries have passed her house for such a long time and to find her this week, literally within a minute away from our house, has been so amazing. To see her come back yesterday made me happy. The Lord's sheep are out there and we need to bring them back. I'm starting to like working with LAs. I used to resent it, but this week has opened my eyes to the importance of it. Talking with them, teaching them, and trying to help them feel the Spirit is important. When we meet with LAs, I think it shows them that we care about them. And I don't think there's anything wrong with showing others that I love and care about them. Sometimes I'm horrible at doing that but I know it's what the Savior would have done. If you're going to get anything out of this email, please take time this week to think of others and show others that you care and love them. Seriously though, who cares if you don't know them that well or if it's awkward or if it's "weird", just do it. I love you guys and I love this gospel. The Church is true! If you know a less-active, invite them to come back to church! 

Elder Rawlinson 

Rice fields on rice fields on rice fields
 So I got a cool house plant last P-day and Elder Ridings decided her would take it on the back of his bike to take it home hahah!

Week 28: NONG KHAI IS SO COOLk Febuary 7, 2016

What's up everyone?! This week's been crazy. Moves came in last week and I'm now serving in an area called Nong Khai. Even though I'm gonna miss my second-home in Ubon and all the great things that I got to experience there, it was time for me to go. But seriously though, Nong Khai is such an awesome area! It's beautiful here. We're pretty high up north right next to the river that separates the border between Thailand and Lao. Our house is actually right by that river. I've seen so many falangs (white people) here and I think it's probably because of how great this place is. It's green everywhere with trees and rice fields and the weather feels like California. It's actually been getting pretty cold in the mornings. When we go to sleep at night, we can here music from outside by the river. The Lord's blessed me by sending me here for sure.

My new companion is Elder Bryson. Elder Bryson's a stud. We get along way well and we have a similar sense of humor. He works hard and isn't afraid of getting things done. We're both white-washing into this area, meaning we're both new into Nong Khai. I'm not gonna lie, white-washing's tough. We came into this place not knowing what to expect and not knowing who's who, etc. We've had to start our investigator pool from scratch and learn who's RC and who's LA. It's not easy, but I've actually enjoyed white-washing here in Nong Khai. We get to basically build up the work from knowing absolutely nothing when we moved here. Anyway, the ward is way different than Ubon or any place back home. To put it simply, they need development and guidance. For example, in Sunday School, the teacher just let us take over and basically teach the class. There's around 40 members that come to church every Sunday and it's been close to that number for years. This area needs help and Elder Bryson and I are going to seriously just buckle down and get to work this transfer. I want to see this ward grow and at least have 55-60 people coming to church by the end of this transfer. The other two elders here in Nong Khai are great too. Elder Ridings is the district leader and he's training a new greenie, Elder Cecil.This means I'm no longer the youngest in the district anymore! But yeah, Elder Cecil's doing great. I know exactly how he feels cause I was just in his shoes not too longer ago. In all seriousness, I'm so glad I never get to be a greenie again. Those first two transfers are hard not knowing what's going on haha. I'm still learning the language, but I can understand so much better than my greenie days ha. 

Crazy story time! So there's an interesting member in the ward here in Nong Khai and her name is MD. Apparently, the missionaries have gone to her house in the past and one time, they noticed there was a dead cat just laying on the floor of her house. One of the elders was like "MD, why haven't you picked up this cat and how long has it been dead?". The cat has apparently been laying dead in her house for like 4 or 5 months. And she wouldn't tell them why it was dead.... Apparently you could even tell that she tried to sweep around the dead cat. The elders tried to clean it up so she just picked it up and got rid of it. To this day, the dead cat stain is still there and you can see where the cat used to lay dead on the floor. Wow. I thought I met some crazy people on my mission and then I moved to Nong Khai. And I've only been here for a few days. But regardless, I love it here and I love being a missionary (no matter how crazy and weird people can be). I read something that I really liked this morning. It's simple, but very powerful. "Everyday, I will prove my worth". This sentence means a lot to me. The Lord knows we all have so much potential and I feel like proving that to Him is important. Missionary work is hard but it's been the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. I just want to work and work and flip this area around and see baptisms and just awesome things here in Thailand. I love you guys. Please remember that the Lord loves you guys. You all have potential greater than you know. Whatever you're righteously pursuing, do it with all your whole heart, might, mind and strength. I know you can be blessed because of it. Have a great week!

Elder Rawlinson

We saw this cool place with huge statues yesterday and stopped for a little bit. It felt like I wasn't on earth anymore or something haha.

Week 27: I don't know what to title these anymore, February 1, 2016

HELLOOO EVERYONE! This week marks 6 months! I can't believe it. It really has gone by sooooooo fast. I just want it all to slow down but I feel like it's only gonna get faster from here haha. First of all, moves haven't come in yet, so I'm still not sure where I'm headed. I'll probably find out some time tonight or tomorrow. This past week was different than usual. We had zone conference in Roi-Et and it was actually really good. Right now, Thailand has 3 stakes. Our goal is 8. Conference really helped me get the "bigger picture" of the work here in Thailand. Baptisms are important, but they're not our final goal for our investigators. We want them to go to the temple and be sealed with their families forever. You guys may or may not know this, but Thailand is getting a temple in the future and it's a big deal. We need to be preparing people to go to the temple. This doesn't mean baptism isn't our focus anymore, I think it means we need to keep our eyes on the "bigger picture". Exaltation with our families.

Alright, crazy story time. So the other day, Elder Daybell and I got to talk to a guy named Bother D. He's interesting. He told us that he hears voices in his head. I guess the voices actually say things to him? I'm not sure how it works, but one time he said he could hear them in the room that we were all in. What. He told us that he heard the Book of Mormon was true. Anyway, he used to go to a Protestant church and he wants to know why our church is different. I kinda feel bad for the guy. I mean if he really does hear voices, that's some creepy stuff. I think he wants to know how to get rid of them too... Anyway, I've been able to meet with a wide variety of different people this transfer. It's so amazing how we're all children of Heavenly Father. No matter how different we all are from each other, we all chose to follow the Savior before we came down to this earth. If you think about it, missionary work is getting people to remember who Jesus Christ really is. And I love it. So much. This church is true. The Restoration is a fact. I have felt and experienced things these past 6 months that have testified of these truths. Jesus Christ lives. He loves us and He knows us. I encourage you all to keep a spiritual perspective on the things that go on in your life. You are not alone in this journey. I love you guys and I hope you all have a solid week! 

Elder Rawlinson

From Benz's baptism and P-day last week when it poured on us!!!

Week 24: Sawadii Khap everyone! January 11, 2016

Sawadii Khap everyone! This week was a lot of work, but still way fun! In zone training, we learned that our mission will be making a few changes. We're no longer allowed to have transfer meetings. I don't know if you guys have ever seen any of the transfer videos we've had, but that will no longer be a thing. I think it's a good change. Transfer meetings can be a waste of time and money because we have to go all the way to Bangkok to find out where we're supposed move. It would be way easier to just find out over the phone and move from where we are to a new place without going to Bangkok. It's a little sad cause we won't be able to see everyone at transfer meetings anymore, but it's for the best.

We had a baptism on Saturday for our investigator, Sister W. Sister W is 19 years old. She's super nice and humble and just an all-around down to earth person. She first came to church because of English class. For some reason, she wanted to learn more about what we taught. Ever since then, we've been teaching her the lessons and preparing her to get baptized. Sister W is so awesome. I know I probably say this about everyone that we teach, but she really is so awesome. Her story is different than most people's. Her mom died when she was 5 years old and she doesn't know where her dad is. She didn't have a "family" to grow up with. This gospel has changed her life. It's given her hope. I've seen a change in her since I first met her and I know that it's because of the message of the Gospel. The ward here has really taken her in and she's friends with a lot of the members now. One day, I went up to her and I asked her if she was going to be at the church tomorrow. She answered and told me that she goes to the church everyday. What. Every missionaries' dream response right there haha. She bore her testimony at the baptismal program and even though it was simple, the Spirit was so strong. She knows the church is true and she has a testimony. I'm so grateful that I get to know Sister W. People like her is what makes this all worth it. 

Anyway, the work is moving along and things are going well. One of the members in the ward, Sister Tenggwaa (which literally translates to cucumber) got her mission call to serve in Hamilton, New Zealand. It reminded me of my call opening and all the excitement that was a part of it. I'm grateful for this mission and I love being a missionary. Christ lives and loves us all. I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Rawlinson

From the baptism 
And lunch from last Wednesday with Brother Gid, Sister Joy,  and our investigator, Sam (the guy wearing a white shirt and tie on the right side)