Monday, August 25, 2014

But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need

1. President and Sister Senior, and our senior missionaries, 
Elder and Sister Stoker, came to visit our ward 
in Kalasin this weekend! So much fun!

2. Cocoa Yen as mentioned in the good. So good.

3. me and Elder Hinkson (awkwardly taken and 
photobombed by a variety of Elders in our zone haha)

4. The lake at the park where we go contacting most often!

5. Various members and one of our investigators at our Friday night 
Book of Mormon class! The members here are hilarious and awesome missionaries 
and teachers. Their faith and knowledge of the gospel is so inspiring!

This week, there were a lot of big and little miracles in the midst of a really brutal week of work and not very much success.

Miracle number one is called Tiger Balm. It's this weird cream (smell/feels/looks just like vicks, that stuff you use when you have a sore throat) that you put on mosquito bites and ohhh sweet relief. It's a lifesaver. The second miracle is Cocoa Yen, which is basically cold/iced chocolate (think opposite of hot chocolate). It's so amazing. They give it to us free at the hospital where we volunteer every week and it's just the greatest thing.

On Saturday, we went to Roi-Et for district training and most of the zone was there, which was cool because I finally got to meet and hang out with some more missionaries (it gets really lonely up in Kalasin with just me and Sister Ladle for miles and miles in any direction). And guess who's training in Roi-Et right now...Elder Hinkson from my MTC district! It was SO good to see him again! He's doing great, has an awesome trainer, and it loving the work. I didn't realize how many inside jokes our district has until we were talking over lunch and just about every other thing that was said was a reference to something that happened in the MTC.

You know when you hate something for long enough, you start to love it? I realized yesterday that that's what's happening to me and biking. It's still hard and kinda nerve-wracking, but my average number of near-death experiences has gone down significantly, and sometimes at night when it finally cools down and the breeze picks up and it's dark, I realize I'm enjoying it. That's been a miracle, too.

So we get to teach English every week as part of our agreement with the Thai government to teach the gospel here, and it's insanely fun. Here in Kalasin we just have one class for all ages/levels of experience, which is a bit of a unique challenge sometimes, but it's all the same another miracle because I've always wanted to teach English and I passed up an opportunity to do that to come on a mission, and now I get to teach it every week. God really is mindful of me, and I know He is mindful of all of us.

Funny story of the week: we were out contacting and I talked to a guy who seemed really interested, we started talking about the gospel and God and he said he's studied our religion and a lot of others. So we're talking, and then suddenly he says, out of the blue, that he saw God, and he starts describing it in detail to me, how God told him to do whatever and go to whatever church he felt like...yeah...turns out he wasn't really interested. But it was really funny because it's probably the most in-depth/longest conversation I've ever had with a Thai person.

We haven't had a whole lot of success with numbers this week. President Senior sent me to a pretty tough area, and it's hard to have so many good people just falling through the cracks or vanishing. I love the scripture James 1:5 for a lot of reasons. It's pretty significant in our church because it inspired Joseph Smith to kneel in a grove of trees and ask a question of God. But I particularly like that it says that God "giveth to all men liberally." And it's so true! If we want help, if we need strength, if we need a specific gift or just support, all we have to do is ask.

Lastly but not leastly, huge shoutout to Elder Chase Junge because he just got his visa to Brazil! He's been serving stateside waiting for his visa for more than a year now, just an incredible missionary and friend and he's been a huge part of why I'm out here and I'm so excited for him to go to Brazil.

Have a great week everyone!
Sister Zoller

Monday, August 18, 2014

You can't always get what you want...

Second week in Thailand! I don't even know where to begin with all that's happened.

I'll start with sweat. It really doesn't feel that hot or humid here to me, but then suddenly I'll notice drops of sweat falling off my face and then I'll remember I'm in Thailand. It's even worse if you're running. Speaking of running....last week we were talking with people in the park and we talked to this runner named Jackie and he was really interested in going to church and meeting with us. We had just turned to go on our way and he started running again, when suddenly Sister Ladle stopped us and said, "wait! we didn't invite him to be baptized!" so she started booking it after him, bag and everything. The result is that he has a baptismal date, and he's super excited about it (not nearly as excited as we are, though).

There are lizards everywhere here. And they camp out in our tennis shoes a lot. So one morning when we went running I felt something clammy crawling down my leg and I realized it was a lizard! It was a really uncomfortable sensation, but I was still half-asleep so there was no screaming or freaking out. I'm such a boss.

So...when I was like 14 or something like that, I was pretty obsessed with Korean music. I never guessed that would ever help me later in life, but it turns out that pretty much everyone in Thailand listens to K-pop, and all the members in the ward think it's the funniest/greatest thing that I know it as well as I do.

People drive on the other side of the road here. I'm not used to dreading right turns haha. I only had a few biff-ups this week! And I got back on the bike right away as opposed to crying on the side of the road/parking lot for an hour. Haha... Speaking of nerve-wracking things, we switch off phone days here and so every other day I have to make all the calls and talk to everyone -- in Thai. It's, um, still not something I enjoy, but I've gotten pretty good at it. Everyone is just shocked at my Thai around here, so I guess for a greenie I speak it pretty well.

Oh! On Tuesday, we have district meeting. So we take a bus for like an hour to go meet our Elders, and we have district meeting and then go get frozen yogurt at a little froyo place. I NEVER thought I'd miss Provo/froyo, but it was the greatest thing I've ever had since being here in Thailand. Okay, maybe slight exaggeration, but only slight. Frozen yogurt is a tender mercy. As is Dairy Queen. They have those here. Oh man those are so good. Tuesday was also mother's day in Thailand! There were fireworks! I loooove fireworks, and here in Kalasin they really know how to put on a fireworks show.

Every day I come home tanner and more tired than I thought was possible to be and still be functional (don't worry mom, I put on lots of sunscreen -- and I reapply on some days, too ;)). And to be honest, most days it doesn't even feel worth it at the end of the day, after no success and having people show up drunk to lessons. But we still get up the next morning and keep going and moving forward. There's no standing still on the strait and narrow path, you're either climbing upwards or sliding downwards. There is nothing glamorous about what we do. Don't think that any missionary goes into it for the fame and glory (I suppose some people might go into it thinking that, but that idea is lost very quickly). We're here to serve and give everything we have and are to the Lord's work. How I have energy to make it through every day is beyond me, but as long as I'm here I'll continue to give it my all.

I love you all! Have a great week!

1. We made curry! there's me with some raw chicken. Mmmm.
2. the view from our apartment bedroom window (feat. a storm rolling in)
3. my bike! it's called..."The Black...Mambaaaaa...." :) Originally called Mahnnsiidaa, or Black Devil, because of how many times it's almost caused me serious accidents.
Sister Zoller

Monday, August 11, 2014

In a Kalasin far, far away....

So I'm in Thailand! la, it's the strangest thing. People here have smartphones and ipads and the works but they live in tiny shacks without air conditioning. Those kinds of contradictions are everywhere here and you just get used to it apparently...I haven't quite done that yet.

Before I get into everything, I'll talk about the journey to Thailand. Truly, God looks out for His missionaries, because there's no way 14 teenagers and young adults could have made it to Thailand with all our luggage as safely and smoothly as we did. We arrived in Bangkok tired and hot, and President Senior met us! He's pretty cool. I have to say, I wasn't expecting him to be as cool as he is. I went into my interview with him and within five minutes found out he's a HUGE Green Bay Packer fan. So, you know, he's obviously pretty righteous. ;)

Transfer meeting came and went, and in less than no time I left my district and hopped a bus to Kalasin, about 9 hours from Bangkok. My trainer is Sister Ladle. She's from Ohio, BYU student, she's been out here for about a year. She's so fun and honestly everything I could have ever asked for in a trainer. We get along really well (which is good because we spend lots of hours walking the hot streets of Kalasin inviting anything that moves to go to church)! We got into Kalasin at 4am Friday morning, got a ride to our apartment, slept for two hours, and got up at 630 to start my first day in this area. Woot. I've never wanted sleep more than I did on Friday. Maybe it was the lack of sleep combined with the fact that I haven't ridden a bike in two years, but I crashed my bike in a parking lot and have a bunch of bruises and a beautiful scrape to show for it. It finally stopped oozing pus that's good.

Weeell. We haven't been having much success here in Kalasin. All our investigators dropped this week, a few people have just disappeared, and no matter how many hours we spend walking around asking people if they want to come to church and be clean, no one is really interested. They always say "may mii weyla" which means "don't have time." If they understood even a particle of what it was we were inviting them to do, they'd have all the time in the world! Ahh well. Maybe they're not ready. Regardless, we always ask. And while it should be kinda discouraging that we're not getting anywhere, it's not. I know what we're doing here is important enough to forget about the rejection. Rejection is our opportunity to prove our perseverance and patience to wait for the Lord's timing, and I could spend my whole mission waiting if that's what He needs me to do. And who knows but that we're planting seeds, softening hearts, or maybe even just making people's days. We met a man from Minnesota yesterday, and while he was in no way interested in what we had to say, he was more than happy to speak English with some farangs like us. Our purpose here is to love the people and invite them to Christ, and we've been doing that all the time.

Saturday I saw my first elephant! it was a baby, about as tall as me, and while we were "Dan Jones-ing" (inviting people to come to church/be baptized) it came up to us and decided it wanted to follow us around. Obviously, we invited it to church, but I think the language barrier was too much. Ah well. We tried.

Well, there's so much to say but no time left. I love you all! I love this work, and I love the people of Thailand! Have a great week!

Weirdest thing here: so one time we were biking somewhere and I saw a truck with a double decker cage just packed with pigs. That might be the strangest thing I've ever seen.

Coolest thing here: RAIN. it pours for five to twenty minutes a day and then just stops. I'm sure I'll get sick of it eventually but for now it's just awesome.

1. My beautiful scrape!
2. Water Buffalo! We weren't entirely sure if they wanted to follow us or charge us. It was a little bit nerve-racking, but also super fun.
3. So many scenes here look like they're straight out of National Geographic. Never gets old.
4. Sister Ladle on the wayyy back road to a member's house. We had to hurry and get back before it got dark since there weren't any street lights there...we made it, no worries!
5. So we made an apple cake for a ward activity...but we needed cinnamon and ground cinnamon doesn't exist here. So we bought sticks and ground them ourselves.
Sister Zoller

Monday, August 4, 2014

I'm ready to go! (get me outta my mind)'s our last day here! And today I'm two months old already! We leave at 3:00pm Utah time and fly out tonight! It's sooo weird to think I've spent basically my entire summer here and now I'm finally leaving. But we're all so ready.

Monday night was our last night with Brother Thrap, one of our teachers. In honor of his last night, he sang "Let it Go" in Thai (he promised to do it a long time ago but we didn't think he actually would haha). We've really gotten attached to our teachers, they are all incredible people with incredible spirits and it's through their examples as teachers and friends that I've been able to become a better teacher and missionary here.

Tuesday was our last big devotional here! And wow was it a good one! Elder John Groberg came to speak to us (for those who don't know, he's the missionary that the movie "The Other Side of Heaven" is based on) about testimonies. We are always sharing our beliefs, whether we realize it or not, through what we say, what we do, what we sing, what we pray, what we write, and who we are. It was an inspiring devotional, but in my opinion the coolest parts came after he spoke. When all the missionaries in the MTC sang the closing hymn "I Know that My Redeemer Lives" and we're now several thousand strong, the Spirit hit me like a wall. We are truly God's army here, preparing to be sent forth to the nations to declare the truth and serve God's children. I'm so grateful to have been here for that. After the hymn, we went to our classroom for our "devotional review" with everyone in our district, and MAN my district is just so strong spiritually. 9 weeks with the same people 24/7 has given me an in-depth look into the lives of the 13 other people in my district, and I love them like they're my family.

Wednesday we got to host again! Hosting is one of my favorite things here, so I'm so grateful we got to do it one more time here. Some of the people I hosted and some of the people others in my district hosted got me thinking about how amazing it is that PEOPLE CAN CHANGE. While here, I always was so prideful about not wanting to change because I like who I am, but God has our end in mind and if we allow Him to improve us, we will never be disappointed with the result!

Thursday was my Dad's birthday! Happy birthday Dad! :) We had our last lesson with our investigator that night, so it was a little bittersweet. One powerful lesson I've learned here is that I am not the author of my success, the Lord is. When I commit myself to the work and focus on studying and being productive, I'm demonstrating my desire for the gift of tongues and the other blessings I've been promised as a missionary.

Friday was In-Field Orientation!!!! This is the infamous all-day workshop that takes place the Thursday or Friday before you enter the field. We've been looking forward to it for nine weeks haha...well, it was good. Nothing new, necessarily, and to be frank I think the majority of it was directed to missionaries going english-speaking or stateside, but there were definitely some good insights there.

Saturday was our last day of class -- another bittersweet moment. We got to say goodbye to Brother Shipley, Sister Stolworthy and Sister Hirschi, as well as our other teachers like Brother Chamberlin and Brother Yuen. Again, it's crazy how close we've all gotten. I've never once doubted that they genuinely care about me and love me and want to help me be the best missionary I can be. I'm so grateful for all of their insights, advice, and mostly their testimonies and their love for the people of Thailand. They have changed my mission and my life more than I can say and I love them more than I can express.

Sunday was our last everything! Last temple walk, last sacrament meeting, last time in our classroom together, last dinner in the MTC, last devotional...crazy! It was so much fun and crazy busy but all in all I can say this has been a great learning experience. In a lot of ways, the MTC is a refiner's fire, and as hard as it's been I'm grateful to have grown by being here for nine weeks. I didn't want it, but I think I needed it.

I love you all, and I love this gospel! I'm so grateful and humbled, really, to be going to Thailand and to be leaving TODAY.

1. district picture
2. picture with our Nong-thais!
3. another pic with our Nong-thais! We were only gonna get like one picture with a few of them but then suddenly they all piled in and wow I just love these missionaries so much! we have an amazing zone, and AMAZING missionaries going to Thailand!

Sister Zoller

MTC insights: things I've learned from my MTC district

I've been blessed to be part of a big, incredible district the past 9 weeks here. I'm so grateful for them and as part of that expression of gratitude, I wanted to make a separate blog post about some of the things I've learned from all 13 of them!
Sister Alley always turns outwards! Whenever someone needs help, she is always willing to sit down with them and help them understand a concept or brainstorm ideas for an answer. She is so selfless, and has an incredible amount of wisdom and spiritual insight that she is selfless in sharing with those around her.

Sister Pitts is so humble. She watches people and always tries to emulate their best characteristics, which reflects the humility in her and also her ability to see the gifts and strengths of others. She is so kind and caring and will work tirelessly behind the scenes to take care of people and situations and then take none of the credit.

When I think of Sister Mamea I think of how she's always laughing about something. She is such a genuinely positive person! She's also super obedient. I've never once heard her complain or try to fudge the rules to get her way. She knows what she's been asked to do and she just does it! She is so positive and upbeat and it's contagious! I always feel happier around her.

Sister Peck is a wonderful example of endurance and patience. She is an excellent teacher and student, and she's always willing to slow down to ensure comprehension and learning in herself and others. She's also super patient with other people and takes everything in stride. She's an emotional person, and that adds such strength to her testimony and her beliefs.

Sister Brown is empathetic, supportive of everyone in their desires and goals, patient in misunderstandings, and loving of everyone. She is an agent of change -- she sees when something needs to be changed and then takes steps to make it happen.

Sister Herrmann is so sincere and always tries to understand and express empathy when she's talking to others. She is an effective communicator and definitely has the gift of love for others and for the people of Thailand.

Elder Hilton is cheerful, patient with himself, and so good at service! He always knows how to help with the little things and is eager to jump in with both feet in service to others. He is bold and unafraid of the language barrier.

Elder Okimoto has the same positivity I see in Sister Mamea -- must be a Hawaii thing. He knows how to find joy in the simple things; eating a mango, memorizing another stack of flashcards, or getting seconds at dinner. He is so diligent! When he's not actively working in class or teaching, he's reviewing a stack of his hundreds of flashcards. I love his never-ending work ethic, and his testimony has grown exponentially since coming here.

Elder Luker has so much faith! To see him come to realize just how much faith he does have over the last nine weeks has been a blessing for me to watch. When he dedicates himself emotionally to learning and serving, he is so determined and unstoppable. He has a huge amount of emotional strength, which gives his testimony so much power!

Elder Williams likes to pretend he's just mean and doesn't have any redeeming qualities, but we all know he's one of the most caring people in our district. He is patient, trustworthy, and perceptive of the feelings of others (which is what makes him an EXCELLENT district leader for these last two weeks here). While he sometimes seems hesitant to share spiritual insights when we study the scriptures together, his insights are always unique and so well thought out.

Elder Hinkson is sooo smart. Not only does he have the gift of knowledge, but he knows how to share that with others in a way that helps them understand and increase in their own knowledge. There have been multiple times I've had a doctrinal question and he's always able to use scripture as well as personal experience to explain it to me. I'm so grateful for his wisdom and willingness to share his experiences and testimony to serve others.

Elder Curtis has an infectious enthusiasm for missionary work and life in general! He's helped me understand so much about how to be a better missionary and person. He knows how to make anything fun and enjoyable when most other people would complain or be unenthusiastic. He also has an incredible spirit and a powerful testimony and when he speaks purposefully, he speaks with power.

Sister Nethercott is a stubborn, determined, persistent missionary and I have no doubt it'll get her places others wouldn't be able to go in Thailand. She loves to sit down with people and help them sort things out in a really objective, logical way. She tends to approach everything very logically but she also feels the Spirit very strongly (I think some people have a tendency to think you can't do both). She does both very well. I'm grateful to have had her as a companion these last few weeks.

Sister Zoller