August 4, 2015

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Hello from Thailand!!  We are honestly trying to find time to write a weekly letter.  We are learning that time disappears very quickly.  We have passed our one month mark and it seems like only a few days.

The missionaries here are so happy.  It is a joy to serve with them.  We are getting to know each of them better through our visits to each district and interviews.  We have been to a different branch or ward each Sunday and sometimes more than one each week.   The members are the greatest!  They always meet after church and eat together.  They bring Thai food of course and I bring brownies.  I will attempt making Thai food when I have had a lesson or two but until then I think they like having dessert.

Visiting the missionaries for interviews in their districts has been wonderful.  It is amazing how small the world really is because of the church.  We have a Sister Remington here that knows John Healy (Kory’s friend).  We have other missionaries that have ties with people from our stake at home.  This is a funny story…I have a few of the sister missionaries that tell me I remind them of their mother.  One sister keeps trying to convince me that I actually look like her mother.  She showed me a picture Sunday and I was shocked that it was a picture of me with blonde hair.  We took pictures to send to her mom with her next email.  I hope she likes her red hair.

We had a great opportunity to visit the Roi Et ward where mom and dad Johnson served.  They were all so kind and actually helped me when I bore my testimony in Thai by saying outloud the words I
struggled with right during the sacrament meeting.  One sister was in tears and apologized.  We asked her what she could possibly need to apologize for.  She said when she heard a new mission president
named President Johnson was coming to Thailand she hoped it was Ray Johnson.  What a great
member.  She sure loved Grandma and Grandpa when they were here.  The only thing we didn’t like
about Roe Et was the pack of dogs that attacked us at night while we were walking back to our hotel.  Dad complains about the bag he carries around all the time because of how heavy it is, but we were
never more grateful for it than we were that night.  Dad swung his bag and held the dogs off long
enough for a shop worker to call them off.   I was putting on a shirt this morning and saw an enormous cockroach on it.  Truthfully I would rather face the dogs.

We went to Laos last week to meet the four Elders that serve there and the Senior couple, the Bushs.
What a great blessing they are to the people in Laos.  We actually have 2 branches there.  The branch
presidents are amazing men with so much faith.  The branch members are the perfect model for
member missionary work.  The Missionaries in Laos are not allowed to proselyte.  They are there on
Visas to teach English and do humanitarian work.  They can’t wear missionary name tags.   They are
allowed to teach anyone the members refer and bring to church.  Two branches there now thanks to the faithful members.   They have a two hour block in each branch.  The two branches meet after the first block and have lunch together before the second branch meets.  The second branch had a beautiful primary choir sing in sacrament meeting.  They sang “I will follow God’s plan for me”.  They sang 2 verses in Thai and 2 in English.  It was beautiful and so wonderful to see a branch with so many families, married couples, and children.   We were able to accompany Elder Gong (the Asia Area President) and his wife to Laos.  It was wonderful to learn from them.  Elder Gong is a very gracious man.  He shows respect and love for everyone.  He and his wife are both very good at endearing themselves to those they are with.  I could not believe how well the Elders spoke the language.  Elder Hartman was able to translate any conversation and was invaluable when we met with a government official to try and get the church recognized officially in Laos.  We are actually adding 2 new missionaries to serve in Laos this transfer.  We were able to meet after the second branch with the Elders before their interviews and they bore beautiful testimonies of the Savior and how the people in Laos have come to know him and desire to live faithfully.  The spirit was so strong in our meeting and we were all very emotional. The Church has invested heavily in humanitarian project in Laos. In fact, the Church has installed 219 water wells over the past 20 years. The Church also sends about 600 wheelchairs per year to Laos. What a blessing the Church has been to the Country of Laos.

We were able to go to Buriram in Eastern Thailand for a humanitarian project.  The Ure’s are our senior couple over Humanitarian work here.  We went to a small village for a water project.  There were only 8 members of the church living in the village.  We had Dad’s first counselor in the mission presidency, Elder Stoker and his wife come with us.  I think we posted some pictures earlier of the darling children there and the old village people that gave us cloths they weaved and tied around our waists.  They were so grateful.  The story is that this village shares a water source with a neighboring village.  The well is fed by a spring.  If they don’t have rain they run short on water so the village where the well resides turns the water to the neighboring village off for fear they won’t have enough for themselves. This well also provides water to the village school.  Because of this the children had to bring their own drinking water to school.   Elder Ure had teamed up with the local Rotary to circulate mosquito nets and to oversee the water project as it was being completed.  The rotary made a huge fuss at the the airport when we arrived and gave us a lei necklace and took dozens of pictures.  We were fine as long as the children got clean drinking water and the village had water to serve their needs.  I fell in love with all the cute children and had fun taking their pictures and then showing them themselves on the camera.  We went to the school the second day and some of the same children from that village were there and they kept coming up and hugging me.  I vowed then and there that I would not leave for anywhere without a purse full of candy for the cute children.

We participated in the Bangkok North Young Single Adult Conference in Shumphon, Southern Thailand.  It was a pretty beach area known for where the Thai people go instead of tourists.  It was fun to be with the young adults.  They had some fun activities and then we had a fireside where we spoke to them about our meeting, dating, and marriage.  Our assignment was to talk to them and get them to marry.  We had fun showing them our wedding pictures and family pictures and of course the grandkids and telling them our “love story”.  After the fireside we had a dance.  The Thai people do not show any public affection whatsoever.  We actually had them divide into partners and hold hands to dance.  By the end they were complaining for more time to dance.  After the fireside the young adults kept asking to have their picture taken with us.  They love posting on facebook.  I was helping some of the YSA sing and play the guitar.  I thought I recognized the song, “When You Say Nothing At All”.  I asked the sister singing it if that was the song I thought I recognized.  She told me it was but said I can’t seem to sing this one in English.  I sang it with her and a young man played the guitar.  She would get so excited that her English had a strong Thai accent.  I had a hard time keeping her on pitch but it was a lot of fun.  They would clap after every song.  So Cute!  We had to catch an early morning flight back to Bangkok.  The Stake President said that in their testimony meeting 5 of the YSA said they had feelings for a person in their group.  Kelly told them in his talk to be brave and tell a girl that they would like to get to know them and for the girls to let the guy know that they are interested.  Hooray for the 5 and hopefully the 5 that they like.

We are preparing for MLC tomorrow.  Our second one so hopefully it will get easier each time.  We
leave for Myanmar on Friday and return on Monday.  I am very excited to meet the missionaries there.  They are so isolated and alone there.  We are taking them a stash of Tim Tams.  Tim Tams are cookies that are really popular here in Thailand.  I am not sure what to expect there.  Kelly said Myanmar is like Thailand was 30 years ago.  I’ve made up my mind to love it and especially the small branch of members there.  We have one of their members serving here in Thailand as a missionary.  She is the Sister Missionary we met in the MTC that bore her testimony on behalf of her people in Burma.  Love her already.  She has a beautiful testimony and will be an added blessing to the mission.  She wants us to take a letter to her family when we go.

This novel is getting too long but it serves as my journal entry so forgive please.  I have two sister
missionaries here in Bangkok that I just love.  They call me to come have companion study with them and they call me to teach investigators with them.  I have loved it.  Today I went with Sister Alley to visit Susan.  She is from Uganda.  She is having a baby and is living in a catholic shelter for battered and abandoned women.  She has such a beautiful radiance.  We were teaching the 10 commandments and she remembered each one as we taught them.  She actually takes the lessons she learns from the
missionaries and then teaches them to the other mothers in the home.  She has had a complete life
change and is so hopeful and when she prays she is talking to her Heavenly Father.  She knows He is real and that He is listening and that He loves her.  It was all I could do to keep from crying as she prayed.  I cherish these opportunities to teach and bear testimony of a Loving Heavenly Father who loves all His children unconditionally.  It is amazing to see the light come into their eyes as they realize that they do not have to earn Heavenly Fathers love, He simply loves them regardless of what they have done right or wrong and that He wants to talk with them and He wants all of His children to come back and live with Him forever.

Dad is unbelieveable.  He doesn’t sleep much because he reads every missionary letter and responds to each one.  That is almost 200 letters every week.  He also spends a lot of time with each missionary in a personal interview.  They absolutely love that.  Several have told me that when they know President Johnson is coming to their district they prepare for their interview by studying so they know what questions they would like him to answer for them.  He plans and prepares for so many meetings, not only with the missionaries but with all the district leaders and branch presidencies, not to mention all the traveling we do.   We are so excited for Elder Holland to come.  Kelly has been preparing every missionary to be spiritually prepared for a visit from an Apostle of the Lord.  They are using the material he gave them in the companion study and personal study.  I pray that Elder Holland will be inspired to answer their “questions of the soul”.  I miss those talks we had on questions of the soul Jalynn, Jace, and Jaden.

Happy Birthday Momma (G-ma Halstead).  We love you and Dad (G-pa Halstead) so much.  Can’t wait to skype again.  Jami and Jeremy and our beautiful grandkids, we love you tons!!  Jenica and Devin and ETHAN and AALIYAH (so they can read their own names in this letter) and Corbin, we love you too.  Jalynn, it makes our day when you skype, love you so much, Jace you are wonderful, love you son!  Jaden and Jared we love you too!  G-ma and G-pa Johnson we love you!  Thanks for the love and support and prayers family and friends.  We are here to serve and we are so blessed.  Love you all!!

Mom and Dad