Monday, March 30, 2015

just another [week]

Me, Guitar and Amanda, just a few more people in my family here.

Ahhh, this week. Felt like it was many weeks long. Time on the mission, it's like this sometimes. On Monday we watched Meet the Mormons in an anxiously-anticipated missionary family home evening. It was a great movie and the entertainment of President Senior embarrassing and making fun of Elders never gets old. We were struck by how similar Nepal is to many places in Thailand, so if you see that movie you have just a teeny idea of what this country is like.

Then conference! Always fun, even if I got unexpectedly called as the chorister. I don't like getting called to do public things like that, know, you learn to do it and smile. Or just make faces at your elders in the back row the whole time. At zone conference, we also learned about the "Because He Lives" media initiative from the Church (at I loved seeing all the missionaries I've grown to love and feeling that unity in our purpose.

Me and Sister Hatch after doing all the music for zone conference!

The rest of the week was a blur of thunderstorms and referrals and families. Wednesday night we waded through a pouring rain and a foot of flood waters to get home after a freak thunderstorm and flash flood. Thursday we taught a lesson to an investigator who's convinced she already been baptized in this church (but she hasn't. for sure. we checked). Saturday we cleaned the church, helped a tri-ward youth activity and accidentally offended our investigators and some members. The church is the same all around the world, and thai members are truly amazing, but still human. We all are. If this were any church but God's, it would have come crashing down back in the 1800s when Joseph Smith died. But this really is the Church of Jesus Christ. He already has a plan for Thailand's temple, He already knows who He's preparing to join His Church. We just have to work and have faith that God's got it all under control.

Lots of investigators, now we're just struggling with the progression! Ahh, the struggle to balance. Life is good.
Sister Z.
Cleaning the font this week with members, featuring dead centipedes and cockroaches.

The Elders struggle with technology while we sit on the couch eating snacks from 7/11.

Monday, March 23, 2015

If you can't say something nice... ไม่ต้องพูดอะไรเลย....

[Lots of pics this week, all at the end.]

Well the reason there wasn't an email last week is because of something I learned as a child from my mom and from watching the movie Bambi an excessive number of times: "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

But thank goodness I have a lot of good things to say about this week!

Well, actually, it was a really hard week. The big thing that makes every single day a battle is the temperature. it's like in the upper 30s centigrade, which is something that I didn't think I could handle physically. I'm still alive and hydrated, but I think I'm going crazy a little bit. Or a lot. I can't remember what snow feels like....

Even Africa apparently doesn't get this hot. sigh.

And if this weren't enough, we had almost no investigators up until the last week. Which means lots of contacting in the hot weather. But the thing is, thai people are smart, and they don't go outside when it's hot. So we're standing outside, contacting...and no one is outside.


Thank goodness there's a Dairy Queen around every corner. Soft-serve ice cream is my life.

BUT there are so many things going right around here, too. And most of them have to do with Laos. Since I got here, I've taught a total of 11 Laotian investigators, but only two of them have currently been baptized. Why so many investigators? Because there's something about the Laotian people...when they find the gospel, all they want to do is share it. With their spouses, their siblings, parents, cousins, neighbors...and that's how I've taught 11 Laotians. Every single one of them was a referral of some kind. And right now we're teaching three of the cutest people with their cousin, who just joined the church last month, Sister W. We met with Sister W this week by herself to review some of the lessons and, as usual, she ended up teaching us. She (and her family here) work CRAZY schedules and two jobs. Typically, afternoons are their times to sleep, which is kind of inconvenient because our church meeting starts at 1pm. And if that weren't enough, Sister W has two kids under the age of 3 who are living in Laos, away from her and her husband, and she doesn't get to call/skype them or see them hardly ever but she stays here to provide for them. Talk about selfless sacrifice!

And then on Thursday night when we were teaching her, she said, "you know, it's hard to go to church on Sundays because it's our only day off and we only get to sleep for a few hours before we go back to work...but really, it's a commandment from God so it's a blessing, and even if I have to go without sleep every Sunday, it's worth it."

I cried. Just started tearing up in the middle of the lesson and she and my companion definitely wondered what was wrong with me. I have not seen faith like this anywhere before...there is something special about the people of Laos. They are humble and faithful and willing to sacrifice whatever they need to for their families, and now for God. They're the ones teaching us.

If we could all just be a little bit more like Sister W...this world would be a little more like heaven.

And if this weren't awesome enough, we woke up at 330am on Sunday morning to a THUNDERSTORM because our power was out and it was unbearably hot in our apartment. Desperate, we went outside...and it was COLD. Okay, so I'm guessing it was probably around 68 fahrenheit....but it was COLD. Legitimately cold. And through my unconscious half-awake state of mind and the fact that I could barely keep my eyes open, I recognized that it was a miracle that in the middle of the hot season, God sent me my favorite kind of weather, a cold thunderstorm. Yeah, God knows us. He knows our favorite food and weather and our limits and the thoughts and desires of our hearts.

Thank goodness we always have someone who gets us perfectly!

Sister Z.

1. Ayutthaya is the ancient capital of Thailand and features many old ruins, temples, and a "floating market" on a river.

2. Me and Sister Black! Not my companion, but one of my best friends in this mission.

3. We basically spent the whole day taking pictures.

4. It's so hot that we can stick inviting cards to our foreheads. As if Mormons weren't weird enough...

5. Saw Sister Brown and Sister Herrmann from my MTC group this week when we took our companions to do work permits! Turns out we're all doing great, working hard, and doing incredible things in our areas! I feel so blessed to call these missionaries my sisters.

6. A bunch of people from the Pakkret branch who have become my family in the last five months here.

7. Not the most flattering picture of me, but I thought this just summed up our district/life so well. The woman getting baptized is the wife of a recent convert (he's the one who baptized her) and it was just the CUTEST thing because this work is ALLL about FAMILIES! And then there's me and Sister T being crazy off to the side. Our motto is, "if we're not having fun every day, we're doing something wrong." And this is a flipping joyful work!

Monday, March 9, 2015

"I got bronchitis -- Ain't nobody got time for that!"

1. Last P-day we went to a zoo with our favorite members!

2. I saw a cow. I couldn't control myself.

3. Me and Sister Phraew. She's like my mom here.

4. Last picture with Sister Yanisa. I loooove her to death for forever :)

5. Me and Sister T!

6. This monkey accurately sums up how exhausted we all feel after transfer meeting.

[Transfer videos added at end of post.]

When it rains, it pours. Everything always happens at once around here. Those of you who saw our transfer video already know that...I'm TRAINING! A new missionary! Why President decided to trust me with that is...very humbling. But it feels right. Well, that's not true. It felt very wrong and overwhelming for the first 24 hours from the moment I got the call until the moment President Senior announced our names together and I turned around to see her...and then I knew I was doing exactly what I was supposed to. Everything felt right. Sometimes we get blessed with that confirmation right away.

Her name is Sister Terriipaia and she is a BABE. From Hawaii. This is gonna be a chill transfer for sure. She is so outgoing and confident and will talk to ANYONE. The members already love her, and I do too! She is so humble in accepting help...something I was not good at as a greenie and something I still need to work on. She is an example to me of complete faith and trust in the Lord. I feel so privileged to be her first companion in the field.

The next day we started out normal and were going to do our first day of studies together...but then I woke up and my voice was GONE. Anything above a hoarse whisper caused me to go into an insane coughing fit. So instead of studying in the morning we took a field trip to the Bangkok Hospital, which happens to be an hour away and one of the best hospitals in the world, to figure out what was wrong. I've had a cold for the last three weeks but it turns out that because I'm not getting better it's just been getting worse, different bacterial infections and probably a viral one too. It's bronchitis! The doctor said to sleep for about three days to make sure my body has time to heal...but three days in mission time is eternity! So I said okay (but in my mind, I said something like "fat chance!"), they gave me a bunch of drugs, and we went back home to sleep for three hours until we had to go to a church activity. The next few days were rough, and it's still kinda a challenge to sleep with all the random coughing fits, but we've been doing our best putting in work here. Thank goodness God doesn't ask us to be perfect right away, but accepts our meager best efforts and makes up the difference.

Not having a voice as a missionary is rough. Possibly the worst thing that can happen to you as a missionary. Someone once said, "If you want to punch Satan in the mouth, open your mouth and PREACH." And, well, you can't really preach if your vocal cords aren't working. It was pretty humbling and also pretty sucky. It's only today, three days later, that my voice is finally functioning at an almost-normal level. And I'm ready to go and preach repentance unto every freaking nation if my voice will carry that far!

I love our missionary purpose, as found in the beginning of Preach My Gospel: "Invite others to come unto Christ..." We get to do that every day here through service, teaching, inviting, baptizing, finding....I just can't get over how cool that is. Being a missionary is the best thing that's ever happened to me. I will never be able to overstate the influence it has had on me and will continue to have on me for my whole life.

Transfers were dramatic as always...I found out that Elder Hinkson from my MTC district is off to MYANMAR which means he won't be coming back to Thailand until he finishes his mission. I will miss him so much! But he will do miracles in Myannmar. I'm so proud. And Elder Curtis, Sister Herrmann, and Sister Brown from my district are training! And Elder Martindale, Sister Hatch and Sister Ong from my Nong-thai group (the district that came in the MTC after us) are also training! Sick!

We're on fire! Keep on keepin' on :)
Sister Z

[Transfer videos! The first spends a lot of time following the newly-arrived missionaries -- so fun! Look at 11:28 for when Sister Zoller gets to first meet her new can hear President Senior's clue for who Sister Teriipaia's trainer will be: "Do you like cheese?" Yep, that's our Wisconsin girl!]

[This is more of the transfer meeting. Sister Zoller is in the front row. The "red couch" is reserved for missionaries going home. Don't miss when the new companionships are named, starting at about 4:05 until the end -- they know how to embrace change! You have to love their enthusiasm for life!! ]

Monday, March 2, 2015

Strike it up (nobody's gonna stop my sound)

1. I love this girl so much. So bummed that we won't be staying together! These last two transfers have been so good. So good.

2. Cleaning the baptismal font. One of my favorite things to do!

Transfer week! Don't yet know who will be moving in our district, but we're about 90% sure Sister Yanisa is leaving. I would be very surprised if she stayed. But anything is possible!

Sometimes when you do the right thing, you feel like you're standing alone. Being a missionary can feel surprisingly lonely at times...but every time I feel like that I just have to turn to the Savior in prayer. He is ALWAYS there, and He ALWAYS understands.

Heavenly Father is just the best. He knows me (and you and each of us) so well -- our real needs, the desires of our hearts. and he can bless us with love for others and the ability to carry on. And he can do more than carry us...he can make us FLY.

There are SO MANY good investigators right now. One dude named D...he's buddhist. We met him sitting outside the church as Sister Yanisa and I were about to go out. When we asked him why he was sitting there, he said he'd seen our church building a few times but that day the gate was open and he felt like going in. So we taught him...and he's so golden. He loves the idea that he can talk to his Heavenly Father and ask for help with anything. He prays like a BOSS. It's a conversation when he prays. Like "Heavenly Father, I don't really know why I have this desire to come to church. I don't know why I feel good or why I came here. But I don't really want to change those desires. Help me to figure stuff out." I want to cry when he prays he's so เก่ง (good/skilled/incredible). I wish we would all pray like that more often.

Well I'm out of time for today...I love you all!
Sister Z.