Friday, June 27, 2014

Transfer Day

Yesterday was the day that culminated about 9 weeks of preparation. We welcomed 8 new Missionaries and said goodbye to 16 missionaries.  Two weeks prior to this event Sister Meeker and I hosted a meeting with President and Sister Senior along with the Assistants to the President and the two office Elders. We call  he meeting the transfer planning meeting.  We laid out the plan for the three days of activities.  First day Missionaries arrival - Welcome at the airport, take arrival pictures, Individual interviews with the President, Blood draw at local clinic, Orientation with office staff, lunch, Dan Jones contacting on the Street and then Dinner with President /Sister Senior and the Assistants to the President at the mission Home. 2nd Day - Transfer Meeting,Training of Trainers, District Leader Training, Zone Leader and Sister Training Leaders Training.  Then a Dinner for the Completing Missionaries with President and Sister Senior at a Restaurant followed by a Testimony meeting at the Mission Home.  3rd Day - Escorting Completing Missionaries to the Airport and seeing them off (Depart for the Airport at 3:30 AM). Then later in the morning meeting with any parents of Missionaries who came to pick up their son or daughter. We had detail plans down to the 30 minute intervals.  We were ready. 

Then 24 hours prior to the arrival  of the new missionaries we get word that the arrival will be pushed back about 14 hours (some kind of airline problem).  So instead of the new missionaries arriving at 10 AM on Wednesday they are scheduled to arrive at just prior to midnight on Wednesday.  So I scrambled to adjust the plan to fit day 1 and day 2 activities all into 1 day.  It did not start well - Missionaries plane was an additional 1:40 minutes late.  We put them to bed in the hotel about 3 AM.
We had to cancel some planned activities and adjust others. But we are flexible and started the re-planned 2 PM transfer meeting at about 3:15 PM.  My day outside the condo started by going to the market before 7 AM to pick up fresh fruits and ended about 10:30 PM after refueling the Van for the 3:30 AM Trip to the Airport ( No I did not go to the Airport - that pleasure was left to others).

Sister Sowards and Sister Meeker enjoying a moment
Being at Transfer meeting is so fun.  the Missionaries are enthusiastic and great to be around.  Notice Sister Meeker catching up with other Senior Missionaries prior to the start of the Meeting.

The couple t the very front of this Picture are Elder and Sister Seppi.  They were included in the change of assignment portion of the meeting.  They were assigned to support the Thonburi branch.  Prior to this time they were not assigned to attend a specific church unit. 

Sister Seppi was so cute she jumped up with excitement just like the other junior Missionaries and hugged her companion.  It was fun to see.

Elder Meeker ready to receive customers after the transfer meeting.
After the new assignments made, and the meeting is over I get very busy.  I have to take in phones and hand out new or switched cell phones.  I accept house leader change forms and  reimbursement requests.  I also give out quite a few emergency reimbursements - giving them enough house money to pay for the bus ticket to their new area. That is why you see my petty cash box on the table.  When we close areas - I get keys and all kind of questions. 

I will be digging out from this transfer for few days.  We closed about six areas and opened two new houses.  I have to help with the finding of accommodations for the new areas and work with new landlords and arrange for a contract, security deposit and pay rent.  Tomorrow morning (my Preparation Day)  I get to drive to one house and deliver two additional mattresses because we added two Elders to an existing house.

MLC Special Musical Number
Today I had to deal with two phones that got taken to the wrong areas.  We have one phone in each area that is listed on the Free English Website and the Free English Signs around town.  Well the phone for one area go sent to Northeast Thailand by accident.  So I worked a deal were both phones were to be taken to the DTAC (our phone service provider) store in their respective towns and we recreated the Sim Cards with the correct phone number for that area.  It required me to get on the phone with the DTAC store.  I had the Secretary call previously to set it up - but that wasn't enough apparently to convince them to do it.

The special musical number (Army of Helaman) was performed by the Mission Leader Council (MLC) and all of the Completing Missionaries.  It was very well done. Note the 9 Sister Training Leaders on the far side.

Picture of the Missionaries prior to the start of transfer meeting

Completing Missionaries were seated in a place of honor
Up front on the side - on couches
This was the last 9 week transfer - we are going back to 6 week transfers.  That means we have new missionaries arriving in 6 weeks and experienced missionaries leaving every 6 weeks from now on. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Nong Khai Across the Mekong River from Laos

As mentioned in my previous post, we also visited Nong Khai thailand during our visit to Northeastern Thailand.  On Saturday morning, we drove to NongKhai to visit the Missionaries there. I also wanted to see the Mekong River. We first stopped at the Elders house.  It is 1/2 block from the Mekong River on a very small street.  Elders have lived in this house for a long time. 

Nong Khai ELders home

Wall in the elders house with pictures of all of the Elders that have
served there in the recent past
Elders hat have lived in Nong Khai have a tradition of taking a picture with their companion at the Mekong River near their home in front a sign.  They have enhanced this tradition by positing the pictures on the wall in their home.   There was a period of time where some Elders were not following this tradition.  There is a piece of paper on the wall declaring this as the great falling away (aposotasy).  When the tradition was restored they referred to this as the restoration.  Leave it to Mormon missionaries to be creative.

Front View of Nong Khai Sisters home (4 plex)

Dredge at work in the middle of the Mekong River
The NongKhai Sisters live very close to the Mekong River.  At the end of their building to the left < 100 feet is a walking promenade that is the edge f the river. Marvelous view from there. 

Sisters just began to serve in Nong Khai beginning in February. Prior to that only Elders have served in this area of Thailand.

Sister Maughn and Sister Downs

After visiting with the Missionaries we met up with Elder and Sister Brown at the Thai Lao Friendship bridge.

Opened on April 8, 1994, it was the first bridge across the lower Mekong, and the second on the full course of the Mekong. The cost was about £19 million, funded by the Australian government as development aid for Laos.

The official name of the bridge was changed by the addition of "First" after the Second Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge further south at Savannakhet opened in January 2007.

Mekong River - view from Nong Khai Thailand looking across at Laos

View from the Highway department park underneath the Friendship Bridge
Sister Moleff, Sister Meeker, Sister Brown and Elder Meeker
Elder Meeker conversing in Thai

We met this Buddhist Monk who was touring Nong Khai from Bangkok. No the motorcycle was not his.  But he did bring his wife and granddaughter along.  You may ask - How does he have a wife?  I thought Monks were celibate.  Monks are celibate.  He recently entered the Monkhood and simply stopped living with his wife to qualify to become a Monk.  But he did not disassociate himself from his wife.  Interesting concept.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Missionary housing Inspection trip to Northeastern Thailand

As part of my trip to Northeastern Thailand several weekends ago - I stopped and inspected Missionary Homes, As I mentioned in one of my previous posts - We spent Thursday, Friday and part of Saturday traveling. Sister Meeker and I stopped at 7 Cities and visited 12 different missionary residences. Some residences accommodated 2 missionaries and some accommodated 4 Missionaries. Some were apartments, some were separate homes and some were duplex like residences. Overall we visited 34 Missionaries. First stop was the city of Nakhorn Ratchasima or more commonly called Korat. This city was open for proselyting when I was in Thailand in the mid 70's.

Korat Sisters
Sister Black and Sister Maughn

Inside Korat Sisters apartment

2 of 4 Elders in Korat - Elder Beebe and Elder Quinn

Sister and Elder Meeker outside Korat Elders home
We have such wonderful hardworking spiritual missionaries here in Thailand.  Many times they do not really notice and almost always never complain about their living circumstances.  So when I get the chance.... I get them to tell me if there are any issues with their residence or things that should be repaired or improved.  I make a list and then I assign my assistant Narin to call the landlords to try and get them to fix our issues.  Narin and I then follow up to ensure all is fixed.  If I have a recalcitrant landlord - I sometimes hire the appropriate repair man and then deduct the cost from the next months rent.  And if things are really bad, I find a new place for the missionaries to live and we move them. 

As the Mission Finance secretary I pay the rent for all of these residences, it was good to see exactly what I am paying for.  Another responsibility I have in my position is approval of any furnishing purchases over 6 dollars.  So when a chair breaks or a microwave stops working I get a call. If I have a resources in a nearby house or in my garage ( yes I have about a 1000 square foot garage here just like at home) I send them otherwise we talk about an appropriate budget for the new item and I authorize the missionaries to make the purchase and then repay them thru the house fund. 

The house fund is a small amount of money that I have advanced to one missionary at each residence.  They make purchases from this fund for the house and then I reimburse that missionary ( with appropriate receipts) to keep the fund full. House fund expenses include such items as transportation costs, house maintenance  and utility expenses.

Mahasarakham Elders
Elder Jordan Smith & Elder Larsen
The garage is where we store our Book of Mormon supply, Bicycles for Missionaries in Bangkok not currently in a biking area and a few mission owned Bikes available to be purchased by Missionaries who loose their bike etc. I also store extra housing items that I collect from closed houses.  I have had as many as three refrigerators and three wash machines stored there.  I do have 5 mattresses currently in storage.

Our second city to visit was Mahasarakham.

Mahasarahkam Elders house

Roi-Et Sisters - Sister Yim and Sister Weed

Elder Moleff taking Sisters picture in front of their home

Roi- Et Elders - Elder Kelly and Elder Ophad (Native Thai)

Roi- Et Zone Leaders - Elder Cox and Elder Buehner

Our Toyota Vios in front of the Roi-Et Elders home
Roi- Et Elders kitchen area
Note: Elder Ophad just arrived and hasn't removed his night time reflective vest
required whenever Misionaries ride after dark
It says "I am Mormon"

The 3rd city we visited was Roi-Et This city was not yet open for missionaries when I was in country years ago.The Roi-Et Elders home was large. It is of the same ilk as the homes I lived in when I was a missionary in Thailand.  The large front room was large enough to have church congregation meet in.

Kalasin Elders home is located on a busy street in a
storefront like building
We stayed overnight in Roi-Et and continued our journey in the morning.  Our next stop was the city of Kalasin. this city was also not open when I served as a missionary in Thailand. 

Kalasin Elders - Elder Wahl and Elder Brockwell

Kitchen is in the back with the Bedroom and study area on the 2nd floor

Our next stop on our tour of the Northeast was Khon Kaen.  Khon Kaen has had missionaries for a long time as it was open prior to my arrival in Thailand in 1975.

Khon Kaen Sisters - Sister Sararat ( Native Thai) & Sister Broeder
Khon Kaen Sisters - live in a one room studio like  apartment
The Elders house is right next door to the Church property.  Only separated from the church property by the Wall seen in the picture on the right. It is the house at the end of the lane. The home is owned by a church member.  We rent only the downstairs portion for the missionaries

Yes this plaque on the Khon Kaen Elders house contains a scripture
 D&C 88:119  - Very appropriate

Khon Kaen Elders - Elder Schmitz, Elder Chambers, Elder Barfus and Elder Harris
Our next stop was our destination Udorn.  Here is the town where Elder and Sister Brown reside.  Elder Brown is a counselor in the district Presidency.  There are 4 elders and 4 sisters in town.   There are two branches that meet at the same Church Building.  All of the Missionaries live in the same complex.  Each lives two doors apart.

2 of 4 Udorn Sisters - Sister Stewart and Sister Zaugg
Smiling because we brought mail

Elders front door - As you can tell they ride bikes in Udorn

Udorn Zone Leaders - Elder Jex and Elder King

Udorn Elders - Elder Burke and Elder Thanwat (Native Thai)
One more City was visited on Saturday - I will save that for a future post.

Preparation Day at the Condo

Sister Meeker went to China town this morning. She went shopping with several Senior Sister missionaries along with a Thai sister ( Supreeda - Service Center Office Administrator) who guided them.  So I got to spend the day alone. I did some cleaning - vacuuming and such.  My major accomplishment was to finish the wash that Lois started before she left.

Notice - no white shirt - haven't left the condo today
As usual on my Preparation day I wrote Emails to several Thai Missionaries in our mission.  They get very few emails from their families as a whole.  Some Thai Missionaries get no email other than the email response from President Senior to their weekly email to him.  I remember how Jason said he minimized his time at internet shops on his P-day because his Brazilian companion had no one to write to or get a response from. 

For lunch I had leftovers - fried potatoes, steamed cauliflower and some chicken chunks.  I served them with several sauces. Mustard sauce for the cauliflower.  Barbecue sauce for the chicken and of course ketchup for the potatoes.  For dessert, I  finished off the graham crackers that Eric's wife Kathryn had sent several months ago.  I just needed some left over frosting to eat them with. 

Wow ..... did I miss that experience.  Quite often in my past existence (working life) Lois would make cookies or brownies for me to take to work to have as desert as part of my lunch.  When we did not have cookies/brownies she would quite often make me graham cracker cookies. This is accomplished by liberally applying frosting to one graham cracker with another graham cracker put on top.  So in essence it was a graham cracker and frosting sandwich.  Served with cold milk ..... one of my favorite things.  Thanks Kathyryn for sending the graham crackers.  I had three crackers that were mostly intact after the journey in the mail. 

Sister Meeker came home after a successful shopping trip.  She has had her eye on this Thai nativity set for a while.  Turns out they did not find what they were looking for in China town so they went to Jutajak market. This market is a weekend market that has hundreds of vendor stalls.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Taste of Angkor Wat

During our trip through northeastern Thailand we decided to visit Phimai historical park. This park protects one of the most important Khmer temples of Thailand. It is located in the town of Phimai in the Nakhon Ratchasima (sometimes called Korat) province. This town is about 6 miles off of the main highway traveling from Bangkok to Udorn. The temple in Phimai marks one end of the Ancient Khmer Highway from Angkor. As the enclosed area of 1020 meters x 580 meters is comparable with that of Angkor Wat, Phimai must have been an important city in the Khmer empire. Most buildings are from the late 11th to the late 12th century, with similar style as Angkor Wat. However, even though the Khmer at that time were Hindu, the temple was built as a Buddhist temple, as Buddhism in the Khorat area dated back to the 7th century. Inscriptions name the site Vimayapura (which means city of Vimaya), which developed into the Thai name Phimai.
View of one section of ruins
In Cambodia is a very famous tourist destination called Angkor Wat (Angkor Temple).  Angkor Wat  was first a Hindu, then subsequently a Buddhist, temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world. The temple was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yasodharapura (present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country's prime attraction for visitors.

Elder and Sister Moleff
We were traveling with Elder and Sister Moleff, who are the new Family History senior Missionary Couple in Thailand. Elder and Sister Moleff hail from Prosser Washington.  They went to the same Chapel as Lois's Sister Beth.  They lived in the ward that covered the opposite side of the Yakima river but did meet in the same building. Elder and Sister Moleff are on their second mission together - recently returning from Novosibirsk Russia .

I enjoyed talking with the young lady who works on site.  She has worked on site here for about 10 years.  Her husband is also works at the site.  She really enjoyed telling me about the site. Her responsibilities mostly included landscaping upkeep.  She was not a tour guide - but we got that kind of treatment for about 15 minutes that we got her attention.

Note the worker down low in front

Worker with Elder Meeker - Elder Meeker never misses a change to use his Thai language skills.
Based on her attire - you would assume it is cold - It was very hot that day (like every day in Thailand)
Holding up the door frame
Wearing my hat as sun protection
In the center of the shrine with the Budda image
Nicely cared for grounds in the background