Monday, March 31, 2014

To Become a Unicorn Expert. The Last Week of March.

The Koonyays and Koontas from the rehab center—helping to teach the youth how to make rugs and baskets.
Dear family,

HOW IS IT THE LAST DAY OF MARCH. HOW IS IT APRIL. I hit my 11 months tomorrow...that is weird, isn't it? Anyway. I thoroughly enjoyed my last week of March. And I also enjoyed planning for April Fool's Day...haha.

Here is a quote from my journal this week. "I am at my happiest when I am working and sweaty and smelly and rejected." Why is it that these things make me feel my happiest? Being smelly has never really equated to happiness for me, but I guess things have changed :) I love Tuesdays because after District Meeting we all get ice cream together and then go contacting as a district. We call it the Pakkret Party #pakkretparty or the Pack Rat Party #packratparty. I think it's my favorite day of the week. I can't wait for tomorrow.

This week we also started teaching our friend Joe. Joe is from Nigeria and is a very strong Christian. He loves the Bible and was concerned about the Book of Mormon. He was so pleased when he saw how many times the Book of Mormon refers to Christ. We taught him with another African member named Stephane, who is from Cameroon and speaks English and French. It turns out they have multiple friends in common because of some soccer teams and they became BFFs in no time. The best part was when we asked Joe to say the closing prayer. I won't be able to explain it properly. Stephane explained that when we say "in Jesus name" we always say "amen." Joe got a little mixed up on the order of things and he started with the closing of the prayer by saying "In Jesus name..." Stephane: "Amen." Joe, starting again: "In Jesus name..." Stephane: "Amen." Joe: "Father we thank thee..." There we go. :) It was so heartwarming. I smile every time I think about it.

We had dinner with the Poulson family this week and we had a hilarious discussion about reality TV these days, don't worry, I had no idea what was going on the whole time. And then Sister Lynette, another sister who was at the dinner, turned the subject to camping and how her husband is not a big fan of it. Apparently their family has a trip planned for next month and her husband refuses to go. She said, "I told him there would be marshmallows and hot dogs but noooo he's afraid of that kind of stuff." The Poulson's son Kai, age 12, interrupts. "You mean he's afraid of marshmallows and hot dogs?!" I lost it. American families are golden.

This week I also received a crash course on working with less active members. I've worked with a few over my mission, but it's never been a huge focus for me. (Don't worry, I'm repenting, I'm changing my ways. I'm realizing that my heart has to be divided into 4 equal quarters—one for investigators, one for recent converts, one for members, and one for less active members.) Sister Ladle is SO good at working with less actives. She always knows just what to say. It just blows me away how she always knows exactly what to say to help them. I am learning a lot from my awesome companion :) We had two especially great lessons with some women from the Philippines, one named Helen and one named Aileen. Sister Ladle knew exactly how to help them feel that their Heavenly Father loves them. I've got a lot to learn from that girl. I'm gonna start taking notes.

On Friday we helped Sister Nelson decorate a Christmas tree at the church for the youth conference on Saturday. It was supposed to be the Tree of Life. I had my taste of Christmas this year in March. I could not have been any happier. More on that to come.

We also had dinner with the Chao family. They are from Utah, but Sister Chao is Laotian and Brother Chao is Cambodian. Sister Chao reminded me so much of Auntie Carrie it was unreal. We had pizza and cookies for dinner. I am hoping she signs up to have us over for dinner again in the near future. Haha. At one point she was talking about how her sons have to take piano lessons. She goes, "I tell my boys they can stop piano after their missions." 11 year old Aaron, who is rolling around on the floor at this point, stops and looks up at us and says, "And then I'll become a unicorn expert!" and then continues rolling. Seriously, people, these kids are killing me.

On Saturday we taught a new investigator for the Thai branch named Sandy. She said about three months ago, she asked her friend what she believed in. Her friend said she believed in humans because we can experience success on our own. Sandy switched her beliefs to align with those of her friend. She said that this week, though, when she met us, she felt that Jesus was calling her back.  Before we could even finish the Restoration and ask her to be baptized, she said, "So...when can I get baptized?" :) She is so cute and so good. She was so willing to change and accept what we were teaching her. Yes!

Because our appointment with Sandy was early in the morning, we switched our schedule around a little bit so we ended up studying at the church. We plugged in the Christmas tree and read under the twinkle lights. It was like when I was little and would hide behind the Christmas tree to read even though I wasn't supposed to. Oops. I could not have been any happier. Hooray for Christmas in March! :)

That day we also helped out with the International branch's youth conference. They organized a service activity where a group of older people from a rehabilitation center came to teach the kids how to make rugs and baskets. Sister Ladle and I got to be the interpreters. It was so fun to get to know these little grandmas and grandpas and help the kids in the branch get to know them, too. They have really incredible stories. One woman was a maid for the American army. She also had about 3 teeth and was so sassy. :) My favorite part was at the end of the activity. All of the youth sang, "I Am a Child of God" for the grandmas and grandpas. Sister Ladle and I sang, too, but we sang in Thai. It was so cute to watch the Koonyays (grandmas) and the Koontas (grandpas) looking at us as we sang. They got it, even if they didn't understand the words that were sung.

Church yesterday was great as always, in both branches. The Sae-dan family was in town this week (remember them from Chaing Mai? Sister Yim's family?) because Guung, Yim's younger brother, is leaving for his mission today to St. George Utah. They were all so wonderful and I hugged Sister Sae-dan and they told me I looked fat. Classic Thailand. I was so happy to see them :) 

Well, I think that's about it for this week. I turn 22 in a month. That's weird. Everyone asks me if I am one of those "young and new missionaries" when they first meet me...and I have to shake my head slowly and say, "I'm almost 22!" They look at me with a smile and say, "Well, that's okay." Haha. Well. I think it's great. Anyway.

I love you!!!!!

Sister Cute
(Someone thought I said "cute" instead of "hugh" this week. I didn't correct her.)


"Hey so I shaved my legs last night..."
—Elder Berbert at lunch on Tuesday

Grandma Si-Nuan, the woman who was a maid for the American armies. She was my favorite.
Elder Berbert's leg. . . .
Sister Nelson and the Christmas tree! 
Studying under the Christmas tree on Saturday with Sister Nay (her dad is in the Branch Presidency).

Monday, March 24, 2014

“We like Mormon. This is where we change.” —Nava

BABY ANIMALS. Blessings of baby animals while I am contacting.  : )

Dear Family,

This week was good! It was terribly "egg-citing" in the words of my beloved district leader, Elder Unsworth. Haha. I shall explain in a second. I am happy and sweaty (and hydrated)—all things a missionary in Thailand should be :)

For district meeting on Tuesday, we had an epic adventure with President Senior. Every once in a while, he will join in on our meetings. It's fun. This week Elder Unsworth, who is a hoot, organized this huge egg hunt around the outside of the church. We had to go and find our "egg-vestigators" and run around holding the eggs on spoons in our mouths. It was hilarious. I was the only one who dropped an egg in our district of 8...classic. I dropped Shelly (each egg was named). Which was hilarious after it was broken because the egg was just a shell. Anyway, it was good times. 

This week we also went to visit a family from Sri Lanka in the international branch. They joined the church about a year and a half ago (Elder Nirut baptized them!) and are so wonderful. They are refugees and have been living in Thailand for about 6 years. They are getting ready to be relocated by the UN to Holland. When they were telling me their conversion story, they explained that they have been Christian their whole lives. The father was killed for his beliefs so they were moved out of Sri Lanka and into Thailand. They found the church through a friend. Nava, the oldest son, explained that they had looked at a lot of different churches. But, "We like Mormon. This is where we change." The way he said it, he meant change by becoming members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But on our way home, I was thinking about what he had said and I had the realization that sometimes, people who have learned English as a second language can speak it better than I can. There is more meaning in their words. There's something different and special about the way they speak. "This is where we change." Because of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we can change. We can properly connect ourselves to the Atonement of Jesus Christ by making covenants with God through the priesthood power. It's how we can truly change; fully utilize Christ's grace and mercy in our lives. I liked that thought.

We also had dinner with the Nelson family this week; they fed us crêpes. I shared my story about how I thought crêpes were Japanese for years (because the only time I would ever eat them was when Cliff would make them or when we were in Japantown) and they thought it was hilarious. Maybe I'm not as awkward in English as I thought. Haha. 

This week we also had the opportunity to teach a man named Prince Leo (from Nigeria). He is our investigator and we helped him understand that the Bible and the Book of Mormon support each other. He kept saying, "I eat my Bible for my daily bread!" and couldn't quite grasp that the Book of Mormon was also a part of that daily bread. We suddenly had the great idea to ask him what he liked to eat on his bread. He said honey. We told him that reading both the Bible and the Book of Mormon was like eating his daily bread with honey. We didn't want to change anything, just help him enjoy it more! He got it after that, and he is really excited to learn about the Book of Mormon now. I always wondered how people taught Christians really scared me actually. Haha. But I think I like it! It's fun.

This Sunday I embarrassed myself at the Linger Longer in the International branch because I ate so much. #noregrets

In our district, everyone is really fond of telling stories. Like making up stories and telling them. We've had an ongoing story with our district leader every night when he follows up with us. It's this really long saga and it is hilarious. I just wanted everyone to know that I have the best nightly follow-ups ever. Haha. 

And there was my week! It was really good. Lots of fun things happening, lots of good people I'm meeting, lots of biking through scary Bangkok traffic...all the normal :) 

I love you, family!!!

Sister Hughes
(Now that I'm in an International branch, people actually say my name right!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

With some of my girls! Sai (in the glasses), BookBeak, and Ooh.
My hair is crazy because we got rained on, and apparently my hair is actually curly now . . . like ringlet curly. Yeah.
BookBeak with a mouth I drew her. Haha. She's the greatest.
Backsweat all day longgggggggggg.

A PUPPY – it was so FLUFFY I almost died.
Goats wearing hats inside of Central. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

“Sister, I will miss you. You have a respectable face.” —Sister Som, Lampang

Family Home Evening at Brother Pop's house, Lampang.

This week was a hard week. I was moved from Lampang after 3 weeks and was sent back down to Bangkok to an area called Pak Kret. I loved my district so much! And my people!!! Being there was 100% a blessing and I miss it! I’m now serving with Sister Ladle and we are covering two branches—the Pak Kret branch (speaking Thai) and the Chaengwattana branch (speaking English!). But I’m excited to be back in Bangkok again, even if it is incredibly hot! Haha.

So on Monday for p-day we went elephant riding at the elephant conservation camp out in Lampang. (Sorry family, I'm not quite sure why it's called a conservation camp? Elder Cox kept calling it an elephant conversation camp and it was really funny.) Anyway, it was so great! I'm sorry I don't really have any photos of myself...I just have photos of Elder Hunt and Elder Cox, and they have pictures of me and Sister Packard. I'll just have to wait for one of them to email them to me after they go back to America, I guess! Anyway, Sister Packard sadly lost her camera on the trip...luckily she had backed up all her photos before and she had a dead battery so nothing was lost—just the camera. We got to go hike back over the elephant trails after our ride to look for it, but couldn't find it. We had a great time hiking, though, so that was good. I just wouldn't suggest hiking elephant trails in crocs, if anyone ever gets the chance :)

On Tuesday in English class, our lesson was on Friendship. We decided to teach everyone the F.U.N. song from Spongebob. It was the greatest thing in the entire world to see a group of 15 students singing and dancing to "F is for friends who do stuff together..." :) We were pretty proud of ourselves for coming up with such a good activity.

On Wednesday while we were just about to leave the house, I got a call from the Zone Leaders. Elder Suangwonsak (yes, he's Thai) said, "Sister Hughes, pack up your bags, you're moving tomorrow morning!" So I had to speedy quick put all my stuff away. Luckily we didn't have dressers or anything and we lived out of our suitcases in Lampang, so pretty much all I had to do was just zip my suitcases shut. Haha. Missionary life.

Ann had a really hard time when she found out I was leaving. We called an emergency family meeting and got ice cream at Swenson's with her. We had dinner that night at McDonald's with Sister Ann, Brother Ford, the elders, Brother Ton (who just finished his mission here about 3 weeks ago), and several investigators. One last family dinner before I left Lampang. Rip my heart out, seriously. After dinner, Sister Ann hugged me for a really long time and just sobbed on my shoulder. Ann grew up with her older sister and never really knew her parents. She kept telling me, "This is the first time someone loved me like a mom. You are the best mom and my best friend." Talk about breaking my heart into a million pieces. I couldn't handle it.

The next morning, Sister Packard and I went to the bus stop at o'dark-thirty and were met by Ann, Ford, and the elders. Later Sister Bun and Som came too to see me off and on my way. Sister Packard and I traveled to Phistanulok where she met up with Sister Sumitra (her trainee) and I met up with Sister Peterson, who was moving down to Bangkok as well. It was a very confusing situation; I will avoid explaining the whole thing so that no one gets a headache. Anyway, after 12 hours on buses, I am now in Bangkok!

I am in Pak Ket with Sister Ladle and we are covering two branches, like I mentioned before. I don't have too much to report, since I got a massive cold as soon as I got to Bangkok and I haven't really been able to do much. It was one of those colds that knocks you out for a while. We were trying to work but after I fell asleep under the table in the nursery room while Sister Ladle was on a phone call, our district leader sent us home for the rest of the day haha. Also I would like to say that I am very overwhelmed by the American-ness of the International Branch here and it was so strange to hear people speaking and praying and teaching in ENGLISH. We had dinner at a member's house last night (and let me say it was DIVINE, it was the first time I have had Ranch dressing since the MTC—almost 9 months!) and I got so tongue tied and confused when giving the spiritual thought after dinner. It was so...weird. English! It's so scary! Haha.

We also had a baptism yesterday for a girl named BookBeak. She is so cute. I met her once for about 10 minutes before her baptism, haha, so that was fun. I'm pretty sure she can't remember my name still, but that's okay! Because she told me she loves me, so that's all that really matters; that and she's happy that she got baptized :)

Also I've been riding my bike through real Bangkok traffic. None of that Saphaan Suung traffic out in the suburbs. This is the real deal. And I've been riding with tissues shoved up my nostrils. I feel like I am getting really good at it :) haha.

Anyway, that's the update for this week! Things are good and I'm back in Bangkok! I love you, family and I miss you! Happy St Patrick's Day! (There is green on my shirt, don't worry.)

Much love,
Sister Hughes

Elder Cox on the phone: 'Yes, this is your Captain speaking!" and "Elder Service, how may I help you?"

Sister Ladle: "Come on Sister, we're not that awkwar...oh yeah we are."

Elders Cox and Hunt at the elephant conservation camp. Someday I'll get photos of Sister Packard and me on an elephant. 
Swenson's with the family real quick. 

6am at the bus station. Brother Ford, Sister Bun, Ann and Sister Som. 
Sister Ladle and me. I looked good this week. 
BookBeak is the girl next to Elder Unsworth. She's so cute! 
BookBeak  : )