Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Connecting with Heaven

Our district in Udon (plus Laos ... we adopted them for the weekend)

Dearest Family Family Dearest,

This week has been wonderfully INSANE. We had rice harvesting and switch-offs and traveling and hotels and announcements and all sorts of CRAZYYYYY things! Read on for more detail :)
(Sorry in advance for the length of this letter.)

First an unfortunate truth: my memory card got corrupted. The Elders assure me that the files are recoverable, but they said to do it in the States. So you may have to wait a few weeks to see some more photos of that hike. Luckily everything else was backed up on my hard drive. (Getting a hard drive was THE best decision I ever made; every missionary should have one to back their photos up on...)

Second, the greatest miracle of this last week: Ploy, who was baptized while I was in my very first area, went to the temple. In Hong Kong. And nothing could bring me more joy than that. I wish I could explain the feelings in my heart, but there are no words that I can think of (in English, at least). All I can say is that God is good. 

The beginning of the week started out fairly normal. Tuesday and Wednesday were the normal working/serving/teaching days...and then Thursday morning Sister Porn called us and said, "Sisters! My rice is ready to harvest! Come and help me!!" So we heeded the call and I got to wear these AWESOME green boots that someone had left behind in our house forever ago and we worked in the fields harvesting rice. And I learned that the comparisons made by the Lord of harvesting and missionary work are spot on.

Harvesting rice is hard work. You are hot and sweaty and tired and your back hurts. And you feel like as you are working, you are not doing much. The mud you are standing in smells and there are spiders that can swim in it. (That is not a joke; I did not know spiders could swim and it's terrifying.) But somehow, it is the most fun work in the world. I loved the sweat and the mud and the sunshine and listening to Sister Porn tell us stories as we worked. This is a manual labor that is so satisfying. Looking back and seeing all the rice we gathered, the sweat and the spiders were all worth it. 

 1 Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.
 2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.
 3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;
 4 For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;
 5 And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.
 6 Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.
 7 Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.

The parallels with missionary work are endless. This is my favorite: God is the sickle. When harvesting rice, we first gather it with our sickle and then we grab it with our hands. You never grab the rice first, (or else you'll cut off your pinky finger—or so I was told). After gathering, you then cut the rice with the sickle. There is an order to it. God prepares the people we find; He prepares the people that find us. We grab a hold of them. He does the rest. And that's how it works. It was probably the best personal study I've ever had on my mission, finding as many parallels as I could. And the result? A marvelous work and a wonder. Food for a month. A spiritual feast for a lifetime. More joy than you ever thought was possible.

Friday was spent making brownies. For the huge tri-district conference this weekend, we needed to have over 1,200 brownies. We were asked to make 300...so we spent a whole afternoon baking at the Brown's house with our RCs. Yes, we taught Brother SriThai how to make brownies. Was it the most fun thing ever? It was. 

Saturday we got on a bus with the members to go to Khon Kaen for the weekend. I love bus rides with members. I am convinced that everyone's true personalities come out on bus rides. And here in Thailand, no car ride is complete without sticky rice. Sister Porn passed out sticky rice and later told us that it was the rice we had harvested days earlier. :) There was singing and all manner of mayhem on that bus. So good.

In Khon Kaen, the church had rented a convention hall. Saturday was the Celebration of the Isaan (Northeastern Thailand). We all got to wear some traditional Isaan clothing and there were lots of performances and there was lots of food. The best part though, was the people. Everyone from Sisaket was there. My heart was so full of joy and love for all my people, from Sisaket and Udon. It is incredible how much your heart can hold as a missionary, but equally as incredible is the ability of the people to love you. There is a lot of love in Thailand.

Sunday was just as wonderful. We had church in a ballroom of a hotel. The grand announcement...The Khon Kaen district was dissolved to create two larger districts in the Isaan—Udon and Ubon. This is to help us prepare to have a 3rd stake in Thailand by the end of the year. We are so close to having a temple here in this wonderful country. I cannot wait for the day that I hear the prophet announce the Bangkok, Thailand temple in General Conference. 

We spent Sunday afternoon and evening together as missionaries. We had the most special meetings. We had dinner all together with President and Sister Senior and Elder and Sister Gong. We then had a fireside all about the sacrament. It was so special to focus in on what the sacrament truly means to me and how I can be changed by Christ through partaking of it. 

After our devotional, we had the most amazing meeting in the world. Elder Gong received special permission from Elder Holland to hold a sacrament meeting with us. It was just the missionaries, Elder and Sister Gong, and President and Sister Senior. We were all focused on ourselves during the sacrament—remembering the covenant we made when we were baptized, recognizing the Savior’s sacrifice and the hope because of it. And I don't remember the last time I was able to do that, especially as a missionary. I can't remember the last time I was able to prepare myself for the sacrament in this way. I try to be ready for the sacrament each week, but I always seem to get lost—I get caught up in my investigators. I get caught up in who is sitting with whom, and who doesn't have a friend yet, and who hasn't made it to the church yet. I get caught up in focusing on everyone around me, and I don't think that is a bad thing, but I think I realized that I haven't taken the sacrament specifically for me in almost 18 months. It's funny. I feel the closest to God that I have ever been in my life while I have been on my mission. I have never felt to understand Him more clearly. But at the same time, I have felt far and sometimes distracted, especially on Sundays, for all the aforementioned reasons. I felt that for the first time, in a long time, I truly connected with heaven during a sacrament meeting.

Monday we spent in trainings with President and Sister Senior and Elder and Sister Gong. This Mission Tour meeting was incredible. We learned about the importance of the family, stakes, high priests, and temples. We learned all about the Restoration through the prophet Joseph Smith. And we learned about being one through Christ. It was perfect.

We spent the rest of the day traveling back to Udon. And here I am! My last P-day in Udon. Next week, I will email you on Monday, but I will have my P-day on Wednesday in Bangkok. How strange to be at this point. I don't think about it too much, though. There is too much to do. I am so grateful for the weekend I had that gave me a huge boost to get out on the streets and work my hardest to the very last second. I love you all!!

Sister Full.

(A favorite joke of members..."Eat more! Your name is Sister Hungry!" To which I respond, "No, now I am Sister Full.")

I met Elder Angkham's parents. They are the cutest people in the entire world. 
Brother Somsak and Sister Tan. So good to see them again. 
Me and little Chompoo! My favorite little girl. She screamed when she saw me. : )
Me and PREM!!!!!!!
Me and my Sisaket girls before their AMAZING performance.
Me and my little girls. Ney, Em, Cat, and Aom.
After Ribbon's performance.
Remember Sister Cartoon from Sisaket who said, "I choose God" and was baptized?
Her mother and brother have been baptized since I left, and her father is now learning as well. <3
Me and my คู่!! (companion) Sister Packard
I loved the hotel because there was no durian allowed. Haha.
Missonaries from all three Isaan zones—Udon, Ubon and Khon Kaen.

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