Monday, April 28, 2014

Power and Wisdom in Sisaket, Thailand

My grils and me before I moved to Saisket: Sister Gai, Sai, BookBeak, me, Sandy and Ao.
Family! (Sorry if this is kinda scattered, my thoughts are all over the place.)

Transfers happened! And I moved! Again! Haha. This is my 4th area in 4 months. So I am now in...SISAKET!! Whoo hoo! I'm out in the Isaan—out in the fields :) Sister Croft and I (remember her from the Donut miracle? Yep! We're companions) are opening the area. It's super great. 

The day before transfers was absolutely insane. My last area, Pakkret, was where transfers always takes place. Because SIster Ladle and I live right by the church (ish), we hosted a bunch of sisters who were traveling from other parts of Thailand. They showered at our house, sat on our floor, and we talked. Hooray, I only got one hour of sleep the night before transfers. Ah, well.  :)

On Tuesday I was walking down the hallway of the church before English class. I saw a boy standing in front of me, and I recognized his face but I couldn't quite place him—I looked at him and looked at him when suddenly his little purple glasses registered in my head. IT WAS LES FROM SAPHAAN SUUNG!!!!!!!! He moved to Don Muang this past week and had come to English class! We were both so surprised and confused to see each other. Sister Zaugg was there later because of transfers and we had the best reunion EVER. My little Chancho boy :) I am so blessed to have been able to see him again. He's gotten really tall :) 

So transfers was so much fun. I got to see all of the people and talk to everyone. I was so pleased with the whole thing. I had no idea that Sister Croft and I would be companions! It was the best surprise ever. I totally knew I was coming to the Isaan, too. I just had no idea we would be going to Sisaket. (Let's be real though, did I ever have any idea I would be in Thailand, either? Haha.) I have never really heard anything about Sisaket before, I only really knew that Elder Campbell served here a million years ago. After it was announced we would be coming here, every elder in the mission who has served here ran up to us and was like "THAT WAS MY FAVORITE AREA OF THE MISSION EVER." Sister Croft and I are loving it. Our district is really great. I am serving with Elder Angkham again! (Remember him from my 2nd transfer in Saphaan Suung?) What the heck, why do I have such good fortune to serve with him again?! I am so pleased. I am also serving with Elder Hartman (Elder Angkham's companion) and Elders Lim and Bassett. Elder Hartman lived in Thailand until he was 8 years old, and his old house was right by the church. We went and found it as a district and then played on the playground there for a few minutes. I think it will be a good transfer.

Sisaket is so wonderful. We are living in a funny store front that was converted into a house. When we got there...there were spiders the size of my hand that we had to get rid of. That was terrifying. We also don't have a kitchen or microwave... But other than that, things are great. The members are so kind. On Saturday night, the Relief Society president showed us where a lot of less active members live. She also feeds us and all the members take really good care of us. I feel like I've been here my whole mission by how open and friendly they are. Also this week was the hottest week in Thailand. Just an FYI. That means really, REALLY HOT.

Here are some things I have been realizing this week. I feel like the last little bit of my mission, I have been learning a lot about decision-making—especially with opening an area. Mostly about how to make a good decision and how to trust myself. This week I was reading in Alma 31. In these verses, Alma is praying to be able to bring souls unto Christ. In opening an area, my prayers sound pretty similar. Here is what Alma says.

34  O Lord, wilt thou grant unto us that we may have success in bringing them again unto thee in Christ.

35 Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethern; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our bretheren, again unto thee.

It is incredibly poignant to me that Alma prayed specifically for power and wisdom. I think so many times we think that we can pray for guidance from the Holy Ghost to lead us to the "right decision." What we often fail to realize is there usually is no one "right decision." We need to make a decision all on our own. I am realizing that decision-making is an act of faith and of trust—in both ourselves and in the Lord. Trusting ourselves to use the wisdom the Lord has given us to make a good decision, and trusting the Lord to catch us if we fall. Decision-making is a way for us to grow and to learn. One time Brother Ford (from Lampang) taught me that, "Everything is according to God's thoughts. And God's thoughts are perfect in every way." So are His decisions. And so Alma understood that. He understood that missionary work, though we often want it to be, is not a constant stream of revelation telling us where to go and who to talk to and what to say. He understood that so much of our lives are left up to us to be able to make choices. He prayed for the power and the wisdom to be able to make the right decisions and then he trusted the Lord to catch him if he fell. I am changing my prayers to be more like this. 

And that is my week. Sister Croft and I are looking for investigators to invite to learn; please pray for us to have the power and wisdom to find them! There are people out there that need this gospel. I'm so glad I get to be a part of sharing it with them. 

Also, PS, I can't believe I am going to be 22 this week. When did I get so old?

PPS I can't believe I am hitting my year mark on my mission this week. Where did that year go? It's been the best year of my entire life. I am so glad that I chose to come on a mission. My life will never be the same and I will forever be grateful.

Sister Hug (Yes, I got called that this week. I was very pleased.)


Elder Hartman: "What is this made of?" (talking about a pink dessert after church yesterday)
Sister Croft: "Pink."

Sister Croft: (as we're buying breakfast goods when we moved in) "Darn it, we don't have a microwave..."
Me: "NOOOOO WE DON'T EVEN HAVE A FRIDGE! ...oh. Wait. Nevermind." 
(I guess this one is funnier to us...but it was hilarious.) 

District meeting, Pakkret; Elder Khanakham's house
Sister Ladle, me and the Nelson family
Millepedes in the church
Reunion! Sister Zaugg, Les and me
Playground by Elder Hartman's old house
Spiders . . . 
Popsicles on the hottest day in Thailand
Cows at the church? I'm out in the country, I guess
And one last photo—happy birthday dogs?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Aftermath of Songkran

This week we went to find a Branch member who lives on an island covered in boardwalks.

Dear Family,
This week was insane. I don't think I can even describe Songkran accurately if I wanted to. There was water and pang (baby powder and water) and ice and craziness. The way Songkran works is...well, there are no rules. Basically you can throw water on anyone or anything. You can smear pang on anyone's face. You can throw it on buses or on cars. You can shoot water guns at moving motorcycles; you can dump ice water on someone's brand new macbook pro. All with no consequences. It's pretty much the biggest free for all in all of human history. There were lots of activities at the church, too. There was a karaoke dance party at the church and somehow Sister Painter and I got dragged up on stage to sing "It's Raining Men" in front of everyone...that was entertaining. If you really want to know what Songkran was like, I guess you will just have to ask me in person. 

The week was also pretty slow, in terms of missionary work. People have been out of town and getting appointments with our investigators and recent converts was pretty difficult. We did get to meet with Sandy a few times this week, and that was a riot as always. She is hilarious. And also very concerned with finding the "right man." She asked me how to know if the person she loved was the "right" one. So I told her she could ask Heavenly Father. Except...I said it wrong. I wanted to say, "You can ask Heavenly Father if he is the right person for you." But I said, "You can ask Heavenly Father if he is a person." So that was funny. 

We also had a really fun companion exchange this week with Sister Painter and Sister Croft. Sister Painter and Sister Ladle worked in Pakkret while Sister Croft and I worked in Don Muang. Sister Croft and I were in the MTC together (she is the group below me), but this was the first time that we have ever really spent an extended period of time together. She is a woman of many talents and I really liked working with her. We also had an amazing miracle on our exchange.

There is a less active member in the Don Muang branch named Donut. I know, right? Her name is Donut. So we went to go find her at her house because she hasn't been answering phone calls. (I literally have written in my planner "find Donut" for a 2-hour period, which makes me laugh.) We got to her house and rang the little doorbell. She came out, but wouldn't let us past her front gate. We awkwardly stood there, us wanting to get in, her not letting us in; us not leaving, her feeling awkward, us smiling expectantly, her not moving. I said in my heart, as I am sure Sister Croft was doing, a silent prayer and asked Heavenly Father for help to find a way into Donut's house. And out of a pure blue sky, rain came pouring down. Donut let us in. :)

Hello Easter! 
This year I was blessed with the opportunity to speak in the International Branch. I shared some thoughts about miracles. About how all of Christianity is founded upon the greatest miracle of all time—the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of His Resurrection, none of us are lost. We never have been and we never will be left hopeless or helpless. And because none of us are lost, God will go to any extent to make sure His children are blessed and watched over. He will change even tangible circumstances—rain from a cloudless sky—to make sure His children feel of His love and know of Christ's mercy. 
I love Easter :)

So that's about it for this week, family! I promised lots of photos this hold on. I hope your internet doesn't explode or anything haha. 


Sister Hughes
Sai, BookBeak, and Ao : )

Conference as a district . . . with our very own Area Seventy, Elder Khanakham (left background)

P-day Songkran celebration. Words cannot describe the craziness that is this holiday.
My camera was in a ziploc bag; no worries.

Sister Croft contacting. A man trimming his eyebrows in the background.
Me and Sister Ladle on the boardwalks.
The island of boardwalks.
One of my favorite families . . . Brother Bianat, Sister Nong, and Sister Ned : )
Transfers are this week and I got a photo with them juuuuuuuuuuuuust in case. They are going to the temple this week to be sealed!
Sandy, Sister Ladle, Ao, me.
Branch karaoke party.
Branch party
Covered in pang.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Songkran!!

Dear Family,

I don't have a whole ton to say this week...the country has pretty much shut down because of SONGKRAN! The famous Thailand water fights that are currently happening all over the country!! Hooray! It is a celebration to start out the hot season. Today we get to go out and play in all the water. Our whole district bought these really horrible Hawaiian shirts for dirt-cheap and will be wearing them as we fight. It should be great :) The fights will last through tomorrow (and maybe even Wednesday?) long as the Thais want to keep them going.

So this last week was probably one of the hardest weeks of my mission. It was just downright difficult mentally and I was physically exhausted. On Friday, Sister Ladle and I were contacting at Central Chaengwattana and I was having one of those "I can't do this any longer" moments. I didn't want to face another rejection. I didn't want to face another person telling me that they didn't have sins and were perfect. I didn't want to face someone saying, "I am Buddha" in broken English. I just wanted to sit and eat an ice cream cone and watch the butterflies. Haha. 

So then I remembered something Elder Cox once told me. Ah, the good ol' Lampang days. One day we were contacting as a district and the rejection was rough. No one would give us the time of day. Elder Cox turned to me and said, "Wanna know what my contacting song is? ‘Living on a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi." I thought that was funny, but then I really really liked it. So I remembered to pray.

I asked Heavenly Father to help be be able to do His work and to help it not be quite so hot. I told Him that I really wanted a break, or maybe just a new investigator. I just wanted some love. So then I squared my shoulders and got back to work.

Now I'm going to illustrate a new principle that I have learned over the course of my time as a missionary. It is called "God is a God of Surprise." If you think about it, you never learn anything the way you think you will. Sometimes our blessings are in disguise and we can't see the blessings that are right in front of us. We're like babies who are actually surprised during a game of peek-a-boo. Because babies have not yet developed a lot of their senses and understandings, they cannot fathom that their parent's face is right behind their hands. Because it is not directly in their line of vision, it doesn't exist. I feel like that baby, sometimes. The blessing isn't right in front of me so I don't understand that it exists until later when my sense of perception becomes stronger. And that's where the surprise comes in.

So there I was, contacting, feeling like that little baby. No new investigators were appearing anywhere. No one was listening to me, and there was no breeze to ease the heat. I took a really nasty rejection and turned away and there it was on the ground. My surprise blessing. A bus ticket. 

For P-Day fun, I am making an art project out of old bus tickets. I have been collecting them off the ground as I see them, but haven't really been able to find any as of late. Until I started getting rejected on Friday.

So the pattern went. One bad rejection, one bus ticket. One bad rejection, one bus ticket. One REALLY bad rejection, two bus tickets. It seemed so funny that I would keep finding those bus tickets right after getting rejected...oh. And then it all clicked. These were my little surprise blessings. Heavenly Father didn't send me 5 new investigators or anything. But He did send me just enough to keep me going. Just enough to know that He knows me very personally (a bus ticket! what a silly blessing) and is aware of my needs. It was the best surprise blessing I've had in a long, long time. 

So there it is, family. God is a God of Surprise. And He is really, really kind. I know that He loves each of us personally and is sending us blessings that He has prepared for us individually. Sometimes the blessings are obvious, but I think that most times, they are surprises. I'm so grateful that He loves me enough to send me bus tickets. I'm grateful He loves me enough to send His Son, Jesus Christ to atone for my sins and make up for all my shortcomings. There's a lot of love in this gospel and I want everyone to experience the surprise of it. 

I love you!!

Sister Hughes


"It was 3 in the morning, so I played Monopoly by myself. ...I lost." -Elder Christensen in reference to his freshman year at Kennesaw State.

PS Sorry there aren't any photos this week...didn't want to risk any of my electronics getting soaked out on the street! I'll send double next week :)