Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It sounded like the sky was falling

Sister Meeker and I were having breakfast a week ago Friday and something that I would call unusual happened.  We heard cracking, breaking and something glass-like landing on the floor.  The sound was coming from the direction of the bedroom.  We went to investigate.  Here is what we found in the Bathroom.

We found multiple tiles cracked on the wall with the spalled off pieces all over the  counter top  and floor.  The spalling event lasted about a minute or so. Kind of creepy when it was happening.  At first I thought some light fixtures had fallen or something.
Exploded pieces of the wall on the counter
Cracked wall tile with spalled area

Cracked Wall Tile

We contacted the Landlord and then we contacted the Condo management.  Apparently this thermal expansion or concrete curing issue has occurred more than once in our condo.  They were aware to this recurring condition.  Condo management arranged for a repair crew to come to our condo.. 

Tile totally removed from wall
This is what it looked like after removal of the cracked tiles.  They did a little bit of void filling after tile removal.  It took pretty much a day to demolish and set up for the re-installation.

Repaired Wall - New Tile installed

The next day a crew of four came and cut the new tile and installed them.  They did a nice job.
New Tile installation with beveled edges of new tile

Monday, January 27, 2014

Eating in Thailand

Food is a wonderful thing.  The food experience in Thailand is exotic, exiting and sometimes very surprising.  Since the beginning of my mission I have taken off about 10 lbs.  Now, I do not attribute this to just eating Thai Food.  I think the biggest contributor is that Lois and I exercise every weekday morning.  We get up about 5:45 AM and go to the 28th floor where there is a well equipped exercise Room.  My machine of choice is the treadmill and Lois prefers the elliptical machine. Lois is also using some of the weight machines.  
Sister Meeker, Chiap, and Chamrat

Not long after arriving here a local Thai Family invited us to their home to have dinner with them.  Brother Chamrat Charoenkhet and his wife Chiap had us over for dinner at their flat. Brother Chamrat is a High Councilor in the Bangkok Stake ( only Stake in Thailand).  He has been a member for about 12 years ago.  They served us true Thai food most of which he picked up from the market on the way home from work. If you want to see this true Thai eating experience - you can.  Chamrat has his very own You Tube Channel and yes you guessed it Lois and I made the grade.

Here is the link to this short video clip: Elder & Sister Meeker eating Thai Style.

Big smiles on these Sister Missionaries faces about to start eating
As missionaries we occasionally get together to partake of food.  President Senior and his wife wanted to ensure that all of the Missionaries had a  great meal in celebration for Christmas.  They traveled and hosted a meal with all of the Zones outside of Bangkok.  For the Missionaries in the city they hosted us at a very nice hotel in Downtown Bangkok. It was and "All you can eat Buffett." It had American, Thai and even Chinese food if you wanted that. We had almost 100 missionaries at this gathering including the Senior Missionaries.

Queuing up for Food, Note: Sister Meeker in Line
Elders and some Sisters sitting in another area - chowing down
Sister Meeker in her Christmas Red enjoying Lunch
Sister Meeker with the snack and decorating tables all prepared.
After the luncheon we all took public transportation (above ground rapid trains and then the underground subway) to go to the Asoke Chapel near the office. President Senior conducted a Christmas devotional and then there was more  food.  The Senior Missionary Sisters and Sister Senior had prepared some snacks.  Each Missionary was invited to decorate a sugar cookie or two to eat.  

Missionaries completed with Devotional and about to attack the snacks

Lois in her Kitchen
 There are many times where we do cook our own food (I should say that Lois cooks our food).  We have an adequate kitchen with a Microwave and an electric Stove top.  However the Oven is a large toaster oven  thru the door behind Lois out on the back porch.  It actually sits on top of the Air conditioning exhaust fan.  This evening Sister Meeker is making deserts for a luncheon tomorrow.  I have tasted the brownies and declare them ready to eat. The past Mission President - President Smith is in town and we are honoring his presence with lunch at the service center.  Lois made a cake and is now putting he finishing touches on a Chocolate Brownie pudding truffle desert ... yum yum. 

Probably the two most enjoyable parts about eating in Thailand is the tastes of the Thai Food and the variety of fruits you can get (most of them year round).  There is just something about the Thai Style of cooking that I inherently love.  I guess because I got to experience Thai food for two years early in my life - I do love Thai Food.  I love the hot peppery tastes.  Although I have to admit you can get Thai food too hot...... even for me.  If it is too hot my eyes will water and my nose will run. But I still love the taste.  Lois does a great job of procuring and making our food.  Sometimes we will simply eat out or buy a portion of our meal and eat in our condo.  Either way I am enjoying the food.

Fruits in Thailand are amazing.  We get Bananas off the street vendors about every other day. We keep Papaya, Pomelo, Mango and fresh Pineapple in the house almost constantly.  Right now the small pineapples are in season - they are amazingly sweet. Mangostein ("Mankut") will be in season shortly.  This is one of my very favorite Thai fruits. 
Elder Meeker, President Senior, Elder Fronberg, server,
Elder Steiner, Sister Senior, Sister Meeker
Sometimes us foreigners will get a hankering for non Thai food.  You can get it here in Thailand. They have Subway, KFC, Pizza places, Carls Junior, Krispy Creme Donuts, McDonalds just to name a few. My personal favorite non Thai food is Aunt Annies Pretzels.  Quite often on the way back from the bank I will stop and get a hot Almond Pretzel to share with Lois.   Two Elders (Elder Fronberg and Steiner) came in to town to renew their visas recently. President and Sister Senior invited them out for Dinner since they were in town over night.  They requested Mexican food.  The picture at the left is us at a true Mexican restaurant at Terminal 21 Mall on the corner of Asoke and Sukhumvit roads.  The staff is pretty much 100% Philippino - no they do not speak Thai.  Mexican is not my most favorite food - but this was above average Mexican food.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Elder Meeker's New Kingdom

Sister Meeker and I have been in our positions as the Secretary and the Financial Secretary for the Thailand Bangkok Mission Office for more than two months now.  I thought it appropriate to show some pictures of the office that we work in.

Sister Meeker at the her Secretary Desk
Sister Meeker's desk is the first one you come across when you step in the Mission office work area.  Doesn't she look marvelous.  Notice the pictures of all of the missionaries on the wall to her left. The missionaries are organized by Zone and each zone is on a separate sheet of paper.  We currently have 175 young missionaries serving in the mission.  Also note the dark blue fabric attached to her chair.  That is a pillow sham with  a beautiful Thai deign.  She received two of these for Christmas from the wife of our Thai Office assistant Narin. Sister Meeker proceeded to stake out her chair and her visitor chair with these pillow shams so that people would know that they are her chairs.  Lois has a small candy dish at the corner of her desk that the missionaries sample from as they come and go.  Her preferred candy at this time is something called Sugas.  They are individually wrapped and taste a lot like Starbursts. 

Original Finance Secretary Accommodations
The picture to the right represents the work area that I stepped into.  It was a very functional desk but very small.   If any one knows me well they would be quite aware that I use Post it notes for many     things.  I found my desk was so full of post-it notes, my two computer monitors (yes I did scrounge up an old one to make it two), in box, calendar, an other working papers that I was not very efficient.  Note the large safe behind me to my right.  That is where I kept my petty cash box and a few other valuables.

So I went looking around in the building for what might be availble to improve my work area.  Turns out that the Sevice Center has been in this building for only about a year and 1/2.  So there was a lot of furniture and other office equipment squirrelled away on the upper unused floors of our building.  (Sounds like a future post idea).  I came up with some new furniture to solve my problem.

Elder Meeker's New Financial Kingdom
Note that the large safe is gone.  It is on the opposite side of the room.  I swapped safes with my assistant Narin. His safe was too small and mine was way bigger then it needed to be.  He is required to keep the original passports of all of our Missionaries.  You can see the new small safe directly behind me in the corner.  I have lot's of table space to work now.

Once the new desk was in place Narin looked over at Sister Meeker and he stated " The Kingdom of Elder Meeker"  Thus we can give credit to Narin for the title to this post.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Old Heads - Head Back (Part 2)

As I mentioned in Part 1, Former Bangkok Thailand Missionaries keep showing up in Thailand.

You may remember that I am the 283rd Missionary called to serve in Thailand.  In the last post, I talked about number 210 (Elder Tom Perry), 286 (Elder Jeff Rock) and 300 ( Elder Joe Johnston).

Next month number 85 returns to Thailand with his wife.  Number 35 is serving in Ayuthaya with his wife.  Number 16 and his wife who are the previous past mission President and wife are visiting Thailand at this time.

Number 85 is Elder Raymond Brown. He started his Missionary Service in Thailand in December 1971. Elder Brown completed his mission and returned to Utah.  There he became an instructor at the
MTC in Provo.  He was teaching Missionaries called to serve in Thailand when I arrived at the Provo Missionary Training Center ( in those days it was called the Language Training Mission - LTM) in September of 1975.  I spent two glorious months with him almost every day for half of the day.  I have really great memories of Elder Brown and the time I learned to speak the Thai language. Actually I learned about the language - I wouldn't say I could really speak until after I had been in Thailand a while.  But the basis I gained in the LTM made me a successful missionary. Elder Brown and his wife Sister Brown have received calls to be Senior missionaries assigned as Member and Leader Support (MLS) Missionaries.  They are scheduled to arrive in Thailand on February 10th.  I am looking forward to getting to know him again.

Number 35 is Dennis Sowards.  He started his Missionary Service in Thailand in January 1970. Elder and Sister Sowards arrived in Thailand April 8th, 2013.  He and his wife have also been called as Senior Missionaries in MLS.  Their current assignment is to reside in the small town of Ayuthaya about an hour north of Bangkok.  President Senior has called Elder Sowards to serve as the Branch President of the local branch there. You can go back to a post I made on December 31st to read about the experiences, Lois and I had while visiting the Soward's in Ayuthaya for a weekend. As I understand it, Elder Sowards was one of the missionaries who opened up Chiang Mai for the teaching of he gospel.  For as long ago as he served - Elder Sowards speaks the Thai language very well.  He is a great example of the great souls that were called to begin the Lords work here in Thailand so many years ago.    
The Sowards have a cool blog that you may want to check out:  Sowards Blog

Number 16 is Elder/President Michael Smith.  Elder Smith Arrived in Thailand in November 1968.  This is before the missionaries had the opportunity to study Thai at the LTM before being sent to the Mission field.  He was called as the Thailand Bangkok Mission President in 2009 and just completed his 3 year term of service here in June of 2012.  I understand that he an his wife are about to serve
somewhere else in the world as Senior missionaries.  Before they do, they are back visiting Thailand.  There was a dinner honoring them last Saturday night at the Cheangwattana building and also a fireside on Sunday night.  I see on the Mormon Thai Facebook page:
that there is to be a special fireside in Chiang Mai this Sunday night where President and Sister Smith are the featured speakers. There will be  luncheon for them at the Service center on Tuesday Jan 28th.  It is his Birthday this month ... so Sister Meeker is making the Birthday cake for the luncheon.

Note: 5 of the first 16 missionaries called to Thailand have served as Mission Presidents (4 to Thailand and 1 to Cambodia).

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Old Heads - Head Back (Part 1)

Former Bangkok Thailand Missionaries keep showing up in Thailand.  Today was a great example of the faithfulness of the Missionaries that I served with in Thailand.

You may remember that I am the 283rd Missionary called to serve in Thailand.  Today I was also with number 210, 286 and 300 all at the same time.  Next month number 85 returns to Thailand with his wife.  Number 35 is serving in Ayuthaya with his wife.  Number 16 and his wife who are the previous past mission President and wife are visiting Thailand at this time.

How did all this happen?  My wife says we can't get enough of the Land of Siam.

Number 210 is Elder Tom Perrry.  He started his Missionary Service in Thailand in January 1975. This is 10 months prior to my arrival. Elder Perry and his wife are currently serving as Humanitarian Missionaries in Ho Chi Minh City (Siagon) Vietnam.  They are in town for a few days and we met them at Church today.  We invited them over to the condo for a short visit after church. They will visit us at the office tomorrow. It was great to compare notes and talk.  I do not really remember having any direct dealings with Elder Perry.  Those were different times as missionaries in Bangkok. First of all communication was a lot different. There were no cell phones.  Even phones were rare.  Most of the homes I lived in did not have a telephone.  Almost no members had a phone.  If you wanted to make a telephone call you went to the town phone station.  You told the operator behind the counter what number you wanted to call.  She dialed the number and then told you which of the four phone booths in the lobby to go to and pick up the phone. We got together in Zone Conferences (1/4 to1/5 of the missionaries at a time) once every quarter. So if those elders weren't in your zone you did not see them or meet them.  The only time I remember getting the whole mission together was for Mission Conference - once a  year for about 2 days with ~ 150 missionaries.  In addition I did not move around a lot, I only lived in three different areas so I did not have a lot of contact with many different elders.

Number 286 is Jeff Rock.  Elder Rock was in my group of 11 missionaries that went thru the MTC together and we came into the country on November 6th, 1975. [Note he is 286 and I am 283 because in each arriving group we are put in alphabetical order for our groups arrival date.  We are actually simply group 281 thru 291]  Elder Rock has worked for the State Department and lived in the Far East for many of his working years.  He has actually (if I remember right) lived/worked in Thailand for ~ 12 years total. Of course he speaks Thai fluently. He has also worked in China for two 4 year stints.  All of his kids but one graduated from High School in Thailand.  He is living and working in Thailand after retiring from the State Department.  He is a current Member of the Bangkok Stake High Council and arrived at the Asoke Church Building early to attend High Council meeting at 5 PM.  I have met with him three or four times since I have been back in Thailand.

Number 300 is Joe Johnston.  Elder Johnston Arrived in Thailand in January 1976 two months after I did.  He lives in Florida, works for Delta airlines and is on vacation here in Thailand.  He brought his youngest Son (who served a mission in Chile) to Thailand before he grows too old (about to turn 24) to fly with his Dad’s Family Flies free discount.  He also brought along his Father in Law.  Brother Johnston said after hearing my name and thinking a little he remembers people talking a lot about Elder Meeker back in the day.  I have to admit that I do not remember him and never ran across him that I remember as he served in different areas than I did.  He told me that he has only been back to Thailand one other time before this (not long ago) when he brought his older child on free trip also.  He kept up on his Thailand Language skills much better than I did .  He was still able to read the Thai Script form the Thai hymn book.  I had forgotten how to read (Thai Characters) and had to relearn that skill after I received my Mission Call in Late June.

Old Heads - Head Back (End of Part 1)
Old Heads - Head Back (Part 2 will be continued)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bangkok Shutdown - Update

My travels today took me twice to an intersection that is one of the major protest sites.  The protestors have erected large video screens, a stage and have set up a myriad of small tents.  My first impression is that the Thai people have used this opportunity to set up an outdoor market.  There are literally hundreds of people who have set up spots to sell things.  Food, T-shirts, Trinkets (such as lanyards, whistles, clappers and other paraphenailia with the  Red, White and Blue colors of the Thai flag).  Things have been very peaceful as I understand it.

Looking East on Sukhumvit Road
I am standing on the BTS (Bangkok Transportations System) platform.  The BTS is and elevated mass transit train that has a station essentially at the intersection that is being blocked. One lane of traffic is being routed around the corner here. Note that the motorcyclists are squeezing into a lane that is not really a lane.

From the Terminal 21 Shopping Center balcony connected to the BTS platform,

I am looking down at the street.  The clear area below is the courtyard of the Terminal 21 mall being kept open by security guards  President and Sister Senior invited Lois and I to have dinner this evening with them at a Mexican restaurant in this mall.  The servers were from the Philippines.  the food was fairly authentic Mexican.  The protesters are kept on the sidewalk and on the street beneath the BTS station. BTS entrance is the stairway to the right.

Looking down on the street with all of the street vendors.

See how the street vendors have essentially just laid out a blanket and spread out their wares.  The green and black shirts to the right are Bangkok shutdown t-shirts.  The Red, white and blue in the lower left are whistles with a colored ribbon lanyard.  The protestors love to blow there whistles. Also note the tents set up, so the protestors can occupy the area overnight. The road here is divided due to the fact the columns that support the BTS run right down the middle of Sukhumvit road.

Screen set up on Street intersection of Asoke and Sukhumvit roads

This is one of the three screens I saw at the intersection.  These two ladies were talking about the current Prime Minister. I believe that they were at a different protest sight and they were being broadcast to this site.

Two large screens on Soi Asoke
  A little later out on Soi Asoke I saw these larger screens.  The crowd was not very large. I was back at this site later in the evening and more people were there.

Looking north on Soi Asoke 
Looking down the street you can see that the protestors have set up the very large canopy.  Under the canopy are dozens of little tents.  The entire area under the canopy has little tents set up.  As I understand it, the protestors are trying to stop the elections which are scheduled to happen on Feb 2nd. Looks like it will be a few more weeks of this at least. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Teaching English

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latte Day Saints teaches English every Tuesday night at every chapel in Thailand.  We have been given an opportunity to help in this endeavor.  We taught the intermediate class for 6 weeks.  Three weeks ago we got "promoted" to the Advanced class.

We have four separate levels of English - 1: A, B, C's; 2: Beginning English, 3: Intermediate English, and 4: Advanced English.  The classes are intended to provide a service to the Thai community.  We provide the class free of charge.  We only charge for the materials.  The English manuals are 20 baht each (about 65 cents).

The church has found this program to be very effective in introducing individuals to the gospel.  We ask every student if they would like to know more about the church.  I believe a large quantity of the current converts have been generated thru the Free English program. 

When I was a Missionary here many years ago - we also taught English.  I remember that I taught English to Bank employees lunch time.  Another time I taught employees of the electric company.  I don't think that we were nearly as effective as the missionaries today are in introducing the gospel to interested individuals that they meet thru the English program.

I find that I have a lot of fun teaching English.  I make the Thai students teach me new Thai language vocabulary as I teach.  Several week ago we had a very diverse intermediate class.  I had students (youth and adults) from Japan, Pakistan, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand.  We teach every Tuesday Night from 6:30 PM till 8 PM at the Asoke Church building very close to our condominium.

By teaching English, our intent is to provide conversational opportunities to anyone who seeks it.  We are not professional teachers and desire that our service drives an opportunity to introduce the gospel to our students.

Sister Meeker (I am supposed to call her that in Public vs. Lois) and I team teach.  We take turns presenting parts of the lesson.  Today we used a section of the Disney Movie "Tangled" as a listening activity.  It is fun to teach them the meaning of some slang and how Americas use the language we are born with.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bangkok Shutdown

Today was the first day of the so called Bangkok Shutdown.  Anti government protesters are attempting to shutdown Bangkok by occupying key intersections around the heart of the city.  The closest location to us is just down the street about 1/2 mile away. On the attached map we are about a 1/2 mile north of the No. 2 location (Intersection of Sukumvit and Asoke roads).

 I have attached this English language video made by local news media.  (Sorry you have to endure the 15 second commercial in the Thai Language)

See the Video titled "Commuting the Bangkok Shutdown"

Some of the people being interviewed are located very close to where we reside. The major affect fo us was that it was very easy to cross the streets today. Almost no traffic on our street because it is totally blocked off 1/2 mile away. In addition the head of the Church Service Center asked all of the Church employees to stay home today.  So it was very quiet in the Church office building today also.  I expect that more people will venture out tomorrow now that the newness has warn off somewhat.

Of course we live close enough to the Church office to walk there.  It is located about a quarter mile north across Petchburi Road on the NW corner of the Asoke and Petchburi road intersection.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fullfilling Sunday in Bangkok

Just finished a very fulfilling Sunday in the Thailand Bangkok Mission
The Day started out with a Skype Session with my Mother and two of our four Children. It is always fun to talk to them.  Eric's son Evan and his oldest daughter Lily seem to enjoy talking to us very much. Jennifer also caught us up on the happenings in her life. 

After lunch we were able to attend the Asoke Ward Sacrament meeting.  According to the Bishop there were more than 150 people in attendance. As part of the meeting there was the Confirmation and bestowal of the Gift of the Holy Ghost for 6 new converts who were Baptized last Sunday.  Bishop Sombun performed the confirmation for all six new members.  There was one young man about 15, one adult man and 4 women.  The Bishop also presented two other recent male converts to receive the Aaronic Priesthood.

Yesterday - Saturday - was a national holiday in Thailand .... Children's Day.
National Children's Day (Thai: วันเด็กแห่งชาติ) is celebrated on the second Saturday in January. Known as “Wan Dek” in Thailand, Children’s Day is celebrated to give children the opportunity to have fun and to create awareness about their significant role towards the development of the country. Usually, His Majesty the King gives advice addressing the children while the Supreme Monarch Patriarch of Thailand gives a moral teaching. The Prime Minister also usually gives each Children's Day a theme and a slogan. Many Government offices are open to children and their family; this includes the Government House, the Parliament House Complex and various Military installations. These events may include a guided tour and an exhibition. A notable example is the guided tour at the Government House, where children have an opportunity to view the Prime Minister's office and sit at the bureau. The Royal Thai Air Force usually invites children to go and explore the aircraft and the Bangkok Bank distributes stationery, such as pens, pencils and books to every child that enters the bank as a community service. Many organizations from both government and commercial sectors have celebration activities for children. Children can enter zoos or ride buses for free. There is a Thai saying that states, "Children are the future of the nation, if the children are intelligent, the country will be prosperous."

In honor of Children's Day three Primary children were asked to give talks in Sacrament Meeting.  I was very impressed.  the first Speaker was a young boy (my guess - age about 10).  He was dressed very smartly in a white shirt, tie and a dark suit. He confidently strode to the pulpit stood up on the carpeted riser to give him more height in front of the podium.  He adjusted the microphone to be in front of his mouth.  He said hello (in Thai of course) introduced himself and proceeded to give a very good gospel talk.  He was followed by two primary aged girls who also did very well with their talks in front of this very large congregation.  We filled the chapel and 2/3 of the small Cultural hall. When they were finished the 2nd Counselor in the Bishopric, Brother Mac stood up to he podium. He stepped up on the carpeted riser left by the Children, smiled, stepped back, removed the riser and most of the congregation laughed. 

Thirty minutes after the conclusion of Sunday School and Priesthood Relief Society meetings the ward held a Baptism Service.  There were probably 75 people in attendance.  Two college age young women were baptized.  They had been investigating the Church for three weeks.  Today was their third Sacrament meeting.  It was  lovely Baptismal service.  After the two ladies were baptized, they changed out of their white dresses they then returned to the chapel.  The service was held in the chapel because the room with the font is not big enough to hold all who want to be in attendance.  The youth sang a special musical number (they have done this to every baptismal service I have attended here at this ward). Then the two new converts were asked to bear their testimonies and express their feelings.  There testimonies were marvelous. This bearing of testimonies by the new converts is also something that I have seen done at every Baptism in this ward that I have attended. 

Sister Meeker and I returned home and she had some Sticky rice soaking for several hours.  She steamed the rice and we were able to have a Thai Stir fry dinner with sticky rice.  We also had some fresh mango.  Thai food is marvelous.

This evening we had a young sister from Myanmar (new name for Burma)fly into town to begin her mission  First you need to know that Myanmar and Laos are within the boundaries of the Thailand Bangkok Mission.  There is one branch in Myanmar meeting in the old capital city of Rangoon.  There is also a branch in Vientiene, Laos.  Because Sister Lwin does not live within the boundaries of a stake the Mission President is the church leader that submits here Missionary application and when called is the individual to set her apart.  President Senior asked that I assist him in setting Sister Lwin apart.  Sister Lwin is the daughter of the Branch President in Myananar.  Her sister has served a mission to Australia previously.  There is currently another member from Myanmar in the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo Utah preparing to serve in Australia. President and I set him apart two weeks ago. Sister Lwin is headed for the Provo MTC to receive Missionary training and to learn English (better) and then will serve in the Utah Salt Lake City Mission. She is staying overnight with some Sister Missionaries near the airport.  They will take her to the Airport at 3:30 AM in the morning to catch a 5:30 AM flight to the United States.

Lois just finished baking two deserts for Mission Office Staff Meeting tomorrow morning.  She made some chocolate chip muffins and Oatmeal Muffins.  I go to taste both yum-yum,  Life is good.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Transfer Meeting

Every 9 weeks the Thailand Bangkok Mission receives new missionaries.  Elder Marvel (He and his wife are responsible for Employment Resource Services and the Perpetual Education Fund in Thailand) a Senior Missionary here has taken it upon himself to produce a video that gets posted on Facebook after each transfer.  Parents of the arriving missionaries are truly excited to see the video of their son or daughter experiencing their first day in the mission field. Other parents also may catch a glimpse of their missionary in the video. 

Elder and Sister Meeker can been seen several times during the 10 minute video. You will see in the video that these new missionaries arrived about midnight. We did not go at Midnight to pick up the new missionaries.  That honor was for President and Sister Senior accompanied by the Assistants to the President and the Office Elders who drove the second Van to transport the luggage.  Also going along of course was the cameraman Elder Marvel.

We had our most recent Missionary Transfer on December 18th. We had a very compressed transfer schedule this month.  Normally the new missionaries arrive on Wednesday and returning Missionaries depart on Friday Morning.  Because Friday Dec 20th was the Friday before Christmas with the attendant increased holiday travel the Church wanted the departing Missionaries to travel home on Thursday morning.  So we did every thing we normally do in two days in one day (Wednesday December 18th). I had the opportunity to go with the new missionaries to have their blood drawn on their first morning.  I was there to pay for the service and to collect their passports immediately afterwards. I then took their passports to Sister Meeker.  Sister Meeker then made color laminated copies of the first two pages of their passport (She did this while the missionaries got their pictures taken).  The Missionaries keep the laminated copy and use it as identification. We store the actual passports in one of the office safes.  My assistant, Brother Narin then uses the original passports to obtain and keep current both the government issued work permit and Visa to stay in the country.  Sister Meeker and I then spend a little time with the missionaries doing an orientation.  We have them sign forms, update information, distribute fluorescent green safety vests (to wear if they ride their bike after dark) and I give them a Debit Card.  I put money on their card each month for them to use to provide for their personal needs and feed themselves.  They then were interviewed by President Senior.  Lunch was served and then we traveled to a large Church Building (Future Stake Center) in Northern Bangkok for the actual transfer meeting. After the transfer meeting I deal with moving cell phones (phones stay in an area not with a missionary) and reimbursements of house and transportation expenses. I maintain a Petty Cash account of 30,000 Baht (about 1,000 dollars).  That amount was not enough to get me thru the transfer meeting.  I used some personal funds and loaned them to the Petty cash account for the day. Hope you enjoy the video. Note: we met these 7 new missionaries; 2 Elders and 5 Sisters when we were in the MTC in October and early November.  We do have fun here in Thailand and these are some awesome missionaries.

See the video link on the Facebook page below.

December Arrival and Transfer Meeting Video
The actual Facebook Page address can be reached via the link below.  Some of the content on that page will be in Thai. 
MormonThai Facebook Page

Notes:  The Christus Statue you see in the Background of the picture above was made by members of the North Bangkok District as part of the Christmas decorations and it is actually cardboard.  In addition the Decorations you see during the video in the conference room where lunch was served were all made by Sister Meeker (snowflakes, icicles, Christmas ornaments).  Individuals asked Sister Meeker where she bought them  - she actually made them. Sister Meeker is awesome.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Missionary Mail

We have 174 Missionaries currently serving in the Thailand Bangkok Mission.  They have a myriad of individuals back home who care about them.  This results in a lot of Mail being sent to them.  This does not count the Emails that they receive, read and respond to on their Preparation Day.  Preparation day is Monday for most Elders and Sisters in Thailand.  They go to an internet cafe and rent a computer by the hour. Parents and friends have been instructed to send their missionaries mail to our office.  It is sent to the office due to the following reasons: Missionaries move frequently, addresses are unreliable, the ability to forward mail is not reliable, and the mailman does not necessarily read English well.  Mail is sorted at the office and delivered weekly to the missionaries.  We use a combination of hand delivery thru Zone and district leaders or send to the actual elders/sisters abode via a Thai mailing address.

A lot more luggage & bikes are actually inside the building
If a package is sent to our office we hold it until the next transfer meeting when many of the missionaries come to Bangkok to be transferred or to meet their new companions. Just before our arrival in Thailand the Church changed the Thailand Bangkok Mission transfer cycle from 6 weeks to 9 weeks (meaning this is when new missionaries arrive and old ones go home).  This was to improve the efficiency of MTC usage for foreign speaking missionaries. This results in packages that can sit around for up to 9 weeks.  So we tell the parents to not send anything perishable or even semi perishable.  See the picture of the most recent transfer where the Missionaries who were notified that they were moving brought their bikes and luggage with them to the transfer meeting where they then found out where they were being transferred to.

We have just concluded the Christmas Season.  We received a ton of packages from parents and loved ones.  I took a moment just prior to transfer and sneaked into a storage room to photograph most of the packages.  

 Elder Cosper and Elder Jex the Office Elders loading the Office Van with Christmas packages to be distributed at the Transfer meeting.
After Christmas the office Elders were authorized to send late Christmas packages via Bus freight to the out of town missionaries.

Service Center and Mission Staff

The organization of the church has grown dramatically since I was here 38 yeas ago.  At that time the Mission was the church in Thailand.  I felt that we did every thing that the Church did.  Now the Missionaries which I support do a lot but there is a whole other organization that supports the Church and it's member in Thailand.  They call the office, that these individuals work out of the Service Center.  The Mission headquarters and the Service Center Staff share the same building.

The attached picture from just before Christmas has the Service Center staff and the Mission staff.

Front Row Left to Right: Sister Goodson, Sister Marvel, Sister Meeker, Sister Senior, President Senior, Elder Manning, Sister Manning, Sister Seangsuwan
Middle Row: Elder Goodson, Elder Marvel, Elder Meeker, Seminary/Institute Secretary, Translator, Sister Sasithorn, Sister Nuntuwan, Sister Supreeda  Sister Wanee, Sister Noi, Sister Kanopgwan, Brother Wisan
Back Row: Brother Poonsak, Brother Jonsathid, Brother Rittarong, Brother Ronee, Translator, Brother Narin, Brother Somphon, Brother Chaiyapruek, Brother KC,  Translator
The Service Center is managed by Brother Wisan.  He has a Translation Department, Finance Department, Facilities Management, and Materials Management Department.  In addition he provides support to several of the Senior Missionaries: Public Affairs (Brother and Sister Manning), Humanitarian (Brother and Sister Goodson), Employment Services/Perpetual Education Funding (Brother and Sister Marvel). 

The Thailand Bangkok Mission is of course led by President Senior.  Lois is his secretary and I am his Finance Secretary and Vehicle Coordinator.  I have an assistant (Brother Narin) to help Lois and I perform the myriad of tasks to run the Mission operations.  His major function is to work on the Visa and work permits for all of the non native missionaries.  In addition he arranges all of the travel for the Mission President and any other Mission staff that requires travel support (Assistants to the President and Mission Presidency counselors etc.).  We do have office Missionaries that support us several hours per day.  They sort and send mail. The office elders also order materials for the missionaries and pass on any incoming referrals to the appropriate missionaries.

New Home Decor

Lois and Jay went shopping at the nearby university market this morning.  This is what we picked out.  Nice bright colors to brighten the bare wall in our dining/living room. The cloth is actually designed to be a lightweight scarf.  The hangars were here in the condo and we mounted them to the wall a few days ago.  Lois then took measurements and we searched the market for an appropriate width of fabric.