Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Missionary Life has begun and the world isn’t small

Lois and I checked in to the Senior Missionary training center on Monday Morning.  We had an appointment for 10:20 AM.  They are very efficient at the check in process.  There were multiple stops all mapped out for us as we got name tags, picked up materials, paid for our meals for the next two weeks and reviewed our immunization records.   We started orientation and were separated into Districts.  I was asked to be a District Leader.  We have three couples and two senior single sisters in our district.  Our destinations cover the globe from Germany to the Philippines to Thailand to Wichita Kansas and to Eugene Oregon.  Overall 94 Senior Missionaries checked in with us on Monday. When you add all of their various destinations in we really do cover the earth.   We are having opportunities to practice what we have learned from principles in Preach My Gospel.  Today, Lois and I taught a 45 minute discussion to a community volunteer who pretended to be a nonmember.  We get to do a similar teaching practice again tomorrow. 

We have had multiple experiences demonstrating that the World isn’t small but The Church is large. 

1. On Monday I ran in to Elder and Sister Tooley.  They are in our Senior Missionary Training group.  They started training on Monday with us.  Elder Tooley was my boss when I was a teenage paperboy for the Tacoma News Tribune.  I even sold my 1968 Plymouth Barracuda (my first car) to him when I went away to college.  He later married Darla Pollard – the oldest daughter of the family that befriended my entire family thru most of my growing up years in the Tacoma Third Ward.  Elder and Sister Tooely are going to the Southern Adriatic Mission (Four small countries just north of Greece).

2. When we were checking in Sister Skousen (Volunteer Missionary at the MTC) informed us that her Granddaughter and her Husband live in Thailand. She wants us to look them up when we get there.

3. Elder and Sister Hiatt, Senior Missionaries in our group also started training this week, going to the Philippines told us they knew some Meekers from Port Orchard Washington.  Turns out that he is Telly Meeker’s uncle from northern Idaho.  So my brother Paul’s son Christopher is married to his niece. He remembers Paul from the Christopher's and Telly's Wedding Reception that of course I was in attendance.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Language Immersion Completed

The mini version of language immersion has been completed.  In other words, the week we spent here with our Language Tutor (Thai translation " special teacher") Jordan Ritchie[see picture] and other volunteers who spoke Thai with us has been completed.  The real language "immersion" begins when we get to Thailand where we will be surrounded by a majority of Thai language speakers (the 6.9 Million Thai speaking citizens who live in Bangkok). 

We get to spend the weekend with Josh, Amy and our 16 month old granddaughter Gwen. She is such a jewel. She is always happy.  She dances to the NCIS theme song and shouts out the name "Abbey"  - the forensic scientist on the show. When she wants to show you she is strong she grits her teeth, puts up her arms, and shivers as she flexes her arm muscles.  Adorable!

We enter the Senior Missionary Training Center  (MTC) on Monday morning.  We will then begin our formal training as Senior Missionaries.  We will be in the Senior MTC Monday through Friday.  We get another weekend off and then have a four day Office Specialist training the following week before flying to Thailand on Friday November 8th. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lamguage Immersion

Lois and I have entered the world of language immersion.  The Church offers a program for Missionaries before they report to the Missionary Training Center to come and get a jump start/leg up on the language skills of the particular country they will serve in. We have been spending half a day each day this week with tutors and volunteers learning the Thai Language. Yesterday we met with a volunteer, Sister Sorge from Wisconsin.  She is in the last semester of her Art Degree at BYU. She returned from being a missionary in Thailand about a year and a half ago.  It was fun to talk to her and get to know her..... practicing my Thai Language.  Today we met with another volunteer Greyson Dixon from Oregon.  He has been home from Thailand for 10 months. He is also a Journalism student at BYU and getting married in 21 days.  He currently works part time at a Thai restaurant as a server.

I have been meeting with a Tutor and volunteers about 3 times a week an hour each time for the past 9 weeks via Skype.  The Skype time is almost like face to face.  I have actually progressed very well.  My tutor Jordan Ritchie told me today that my reading skills have progressed to the point that it is no longer any value for me to read aloud to him and that I should start reading from the Thai scriptures. You need to understand that I left Thailand in August 1977 over 36 years ago.  I had essentially no opportunity to use my rather accomplished Thai Language skills regularly.  Other than the occasional Thai person I could find at a Thai Restaurant I spoke no discernible Thai.  With that time lapse my reading skills totally evaporated and my Thai speaking vocabulary shrunk dramatically. So it is amazing the way the language has come back to me.  The first time I learned Thai is was a combination of my hard work and the blessings of God to be an instrument in his hands for the good of the Thai people.  I believe this time it is a blessing from God that is bringing back the remembrance of this beautiful language. 


Sunday, October 20, 2013

The house is empty and the adventure begins

We finished packing up the house and moving the majority of our belongings into one bedroom (packed to the ceiling) and the upstairs storage room.  There are some things in the garage - like Lois' car on dollies (I sold mine - Lois did not want a new car in 18 months).  We did leave some things out.... like the sewing and quilting machine which will be used in our absence.  We also left the furniture in the front room as Mary and Chris only have furniture for the great room. Mary (my sister) and her husband Chris and their 16 year old son Logan are moving into our home to watch over it in our absence. We are very grateful for their assistance. 

We were set apart as full time Senior Missionaries by our Stake President Gary Gessel on Thursday October 17th.  He set us apart individually and gave us each a specific blessing.  We were both blessed with good health and strength. Lois was blessed that she would use all of her many talents.  I was blessed that I would be part of miracles. After the blessings he took us into the High Council Room to greet the rest of the Stake Presidency and the High Council Members. I then took Lois out to dinner at the Olive Garden. We went home to have desert because we had a Chocolate Molten Cake in the freezer. 

Friday morning, my brother Greg and my mother took us to the airport where we said our final goodbyes in Washington.  We processed thru the Airport and got onto our plane for Salt Lake City.  We were nearly the last people to load onto the plane sitting in row 30.  As I walked by the aisle seat about row 26, I looked down to see a name tag on a suit of a handsome young man.  In bold Thai letters was the name of the Church. After we were seated and we determined that the empty seat beside us was really empty. I went forward to invite Elder Susi to sit with us.  He is from Farmington Utah and is returning from Thailand after completing an honorable mission.  It was fun for him and us to share the 2 hour plane ride. Hopefully we made the last two hours of his Mission go by quickly as he has been traveling for over 24 hours.  He was very happy to meet us (the replacements for the office couple in Bangkok Elder and Sister Jones). We talked a lot about his successes and the status of the gospel work in Thailand. He served in many places during his time in Thailand.  He found the most Baptismal success in the Bangkok area.  After we exited the plane we proceeded to the luggage carousels.  On the way we came across Elder Susi’s family standing together with a sign in Thai Script still waiting for him.  I told them that he is here, as we sat next to him, and he is coming (he stopped off at the restroom).  I also told them that we are going to Thailand in three weeks. Sometimes we think that life experiences are coincidences.  But sometimes I think not.  It was a marvelous experience to cross paths with an Elder returning from the very Mission that we are going to serve in.  Tomorrow we begin a week of Language Immersion training before entering the Senior MTC officially for Missionary training on October 28th.