Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dear Family and Mom

I'm fine mom. How are you all doing? Well, we did in fact make it down to moves, the way that I think I talked about last email. We however weren't very happy about it, but that's how missions work. Everything is planned and done at the last second. So last week before we left we had to teach English. We had to cut it really short because our bus left at 7:30, normally we go to 8. So what we decide to do is go down ourselves, not with the rest of the zone, which is kind of what we figured we would have to do. It was fun. We took a VIP bus, which means that we get a small meal and a bathroom stop on the way down. We left Sakon at 7:30 and got to the station in Bangkok about 5:30 in the morning. In between there was a stop, I think it was in a province called Corade( that's most likely not spelled right). Needless to say we really didn't get much sleep. After arriving in Bangkok we took a taxi to the church in Pakkret, where we met some other elders that had to do the same thing we did and waited until 6 in front of the church for the seminary class to show up and let us in. Not a whole lot was done in the moves meeting, just the normal, President Smith said a little bit. Then he made the new missionaries get up and introduce themselves in Thai if English and in English if a Thai (ha ha it always reminds me of my first move meeting). Then President Akanit, who is the branch president in Pakkret did something that I have always heard but have never had the chance to see it myself, he sang a song to wish the จปers or the missionaries that are heading off home. Its a funny song I'll try to attach it, you may not understand but the action are funny, after that the จปers gave their one liners, which can range from singing a song to slamming the mission president or other missionaries to showing the talent of perfect pitch, which a missionary did this last moves, It was way sweet. He had a missionary play a random note on the piano. He couldn't see because the piano is in the next room. and he guessed once correctly. It was a Bflat4.

After that we split up for different trainings then we went and I renewed my visa.

After getting back I met brother เก่ง or for Connor, Keng. He was a sweet guy. we spent the day with him because our bus wasn't going to leave until night. He helped us buy bus tickets and then we took him to eat at the missionaries favorite restaurant in Thailand, Que Pasa. I love Mexican food. Anyways it was funny how เก่ง and I made the connection that he knew Connor. As we were walking to find a taxi I introduced myself as Elder Holt. Then Brother เก่ง stops and and asked do you know a Connor? I thought about it then figured it too much of a coincidence that someone that I have never met before would know my brother, but just for kicks I pulled out the photo that our family took the week before I enter the MTC which I keep on me, and pointed to Connor, and asked, "This guy?" He said, "Ya, I know him from facebook." That was strange to think. It sounds like you're getting into the Bangca ward, the ward that Stop and one of the ward that Keng goes to, pretty well Connor. lol

Anyways after we ate we went back to the bus station and said goodbye to เก่ง and hopped on the bus back to Sakon. Two nights with bad sleep is hard. Anyway it was about a 11 hour trip to Sakon. On the way back I got an interesting phone call. It was President Smith calling to apologize for keeping me in Sakon for another moves. He said what happened is that there was a mistake in the record that he had that said I had only been in Sakon for 3 moves not 4. He didn't realize the mistake until he read my president letter that night that there was a mistake. I think I told him that its alright, but I was half asleep so I probably didn't say much more then OK. I wrote something in my letter to President Smith today that I believe is true. Whether a mistake was made or not. I'm here not because of that but, because the Lord has a plan for me to be here. Whether its to help someone else or I need to learn something, I'm going to do my best to figure it out and fulfill the Lords plan for me.

That's way strange to think that Tom is going on a mission and Spencer as well. I do remember how nervous I was the week before I entered the MTC and again the week I left the MTC. Now everything is the usual but I'm sure when I get to the last week of my mission I'm going to hate it.

I had a chance to look at the web site that you sent me mom but not long Partly because I don't have a lot of time and partly because I'm not sure if i can visit any other web sites. If you could send a copy of it I'll be able to print it off. It was way sweet looking at some photos of Grandpa's family. That's something I have been thinking a lot more about. Family history work. Its something I'm planing to figure out how to use and teach about a lot more here in the mission and something I plan to get into a lot more after my mission.

It sounds like you guys had a fun reunion. I can only imagine how the parade went.

Something that I have learned being the district leader here is being in leadership position, The Lord expects us to do more then just sit around and watch life move around us. But to take charge and fulfill our callings which he has placed us in. You have the power( the priesthood) and the Authority( The keys of the priesthood that you received when you were set apart) to make a plan and do all you can to bring those two guys back to the Lord's fold. The Lord will help you do it, all you have to do is have the faith to follow through with your plans. Keep going. I'm with you 100% and I know the Lord even more so.

Hey so I attached that video and and a photo of the missionaries in the zone last moves. Thought you might like to see who i work with.

Ok I have to go

Thank you for you prayers and love.

And I love you

Elder Brandon John Holt

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

6 more weeks in Sakon Nakon

Hello Family

Hows everybody doing? Sounds like it was a fun week in Laguna. That's funny that you ran into the Beckwiths and the Ponds there. How are they doing?

Well this last week has been interesting. We have had to prepare for the upcoming moves meeting that will be tomorrow. That reminds me sorry for the late email this week. They changed Preparation day this week and didn't tell us until last Thursday so I couldn't give you the heads up before. Anyway, to let you in I'm not moving this moves which is a little surprising to me because that will make it 5 moves here. Which is really unusual for missionaries. So I'm guessing that something might be going down here in the next few weeks that President Smith and the Lord want me to do.

This last week we have been trying to take members with us a lot more to help us teach. I think it helps a lot in more than a few ways. It was really cool as members came with us, they became more and more excited to be able to share the gospel as well as were happy to correct our language and miscommunication which happens from time to time because we don't think like Thai people think. It also helps with our investigators to give them a friend. This week we didn't get anybody to go to church but, we have a few investigators that say they will go next week.

This last week Elder Peacock and I had a time to look back at our goals that we set 6 weeks ago. I always love looking back because it give you a chance to see how far you really have come. In the process of going it sometimes feels that you're not getting anywhere but when you get the chance to look back you see that you have got half way up the mountain that we are climbing. It's funny, sometimes we set goals too high and can't really reach it. For example we had a goal that we would have 20 investigators going to church steadily. We only had 4 for the whole moves. But there are other goals that at first might seem too high like our goal to teach 50 new investigators. We achieved that goal yesterday and we still have until Sunday to go so we could find more. 2 months ago if we would have set a goal to find that many new investigators I would have laughed. It's amazing what can be done in the strength of the lord.

Sorry for the short unorganized letter this week. My mind is thinking on how we are going to get to moves meeting tomorrow. The meeting is tomorrow morning. and it will take at least 12 hours to get there from here. Plus we get to teach English tonight until 8. Its a problem that is getting our Zone leaders thinking as well. We'll figure it out.

So I finally remembered to take my camera with me this week and was able to get some pictures of the rice fields that are everywhere. In the last few weeks every one here in Sakon, whether they are a construction worker or a teacher or a doctor, they all have fields somewhere here in the Issan. This is what they look like after planting the rice. There is also another picture of a little guy that we met who we think is in fashion with his mohawk hair cut. The last one is a fun one. We were biking a few kilos outside of the city and saw this statue that we liked as well as other and thought it would be fun to take a picture.

OK I love you I'll see you all next week.

Elder Brandon John Holt

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Making progress in Sakon Nakon

Hello Family

I hope you are having a Great time at the beach. Here in Sakon we have had a great week. But its been a lot of work that Elder Peacock and I had to do.

Mostly it has been involved with finding people to teach. I realize now why President Smith put so much stress on it a few months ago at a Zone conference. Here is a dumb thing to say but I have learned how true it is now. When you find people to teach, you have people to teach, then you have people to baptize and become members in the Kingdom of God. Its true. The start of missionary work is finding people to teach. I learned this because of the events of the last 4 months.

I don't know if I have ever talked about it but for the last for months Sakon Nakhon has been a "Dead area." I was so excited to leave Lop Buri because the way Lop Buri was going it became a "dead area" as well on my 4th moves there. Let me define the term "Dead Area." A "Dead Area" is an area that isn't producing the "Numbers" needed to be progressing. Numbers refer to the key indicators that missionaries report every week to their leaders such as how many new investigators you have taught in the last week, how many Investigators are going to church each week, or how many investigators that you are teaching have a date to get baptized. There are a few other things as well. For Sakon Nakhon it has been a long time since the area has gone anywhere. When I came into this area at the end of January they had a full Area book (the book the missionaries keep all their records in. That can include but is not limited to current progressing investigators, new investigators, potential investigators and former investigators. There's some other things in it as well) of Investigators that were not really going anywhere. So with some convincing Elder Blackhurst and I began dropping investigators that were not going anywhere. At this time missionaries had the feeling if you let go of an investigator you may never have anyone new to teach thus making your days full of no fun inviting in the hot sun with hours on hours without end. So it was really really hard to drop investigators. Now days that idea has changed I'll go into that later. So by the end of my 5th moves with Elder Blackhurst we had cleared out most of the investigators that were not going anywhere. Next when Elder Blackhurst left and Elder Jolley became my companion, we continued to teach and drop investigators but we were not finding very effectively so the area slowly ran out of investigators. Because we suddenly had no one to teach, we had no one to go to church, therefore no one was baptized in the past few months. This was a very hard time for Elder Jolley and I but to keep it simple we were really teaching anybody who was really willing to progress in the gospel full heart, mind, might. and strength plus because the area was not producing the numbers, The Assistants then became involved and began putting more pressure on us to improve, Which was needed. By the end of my 6th moves Sakon Nakhon was a dead area and we spent most of our days inviting. But we didn't do it very effectively I think because we didn't really ever find anyone to teach. So the theme of the next moves, moves number 7, was just like Obama's campaign, Change. Elder Jolley and I made goals to repent of all our mistakes in the past and start new going back to the basics. Last moves I really learned that contrary to what I think Preach My Gospel, as President Smith puts it,was written on the other side of the veil and not just some book of suggestions that the Brethren of the church gave to the American missionaries. Of course I didn't really think that to that extreme but I like to exaggerate. Really all it was was that over the last few years missionaries have drifted away from using Preach my Gospel as they should and it has been taught from father to son or from trainer to trainee or from senior companion to junior companion. Any ways that's a lot of nonsense that i just typed so I'll get back to the original story. So last moves I learned a lot of stuff to help this area become a progressing area again.

Near the end of the moves I don't know why but I had the desire to stay one more moves. I think that I didn't want to leave another dead area like I left Lop Buri. So I did something that to this day I'm still wondering why I did it. I wrote President Smith and asked if I could stay another 6 weeks. Much to my surprise President Smith said OK and made me District leader of Sakon Nakhon. Normally I would have been the one that moves because when Elder Jolley left I had been here the longest. Anyway, the whole point of these 2 long paragraphs is this, In the last few weeks, with the help of my companion Elder Peacock, we have been able to change the direction of the area. Its was a slow start but its been like a Exponential Graph (look Jen I found a use for math after high school, I think).

Yesterday was the first day we had investigators at church for about 2 months I think. Even some of the members were excited for them coming in as well. Yesterday the Branch President was kind enough to ask me to speak in church so I was sitting on "The Stand" with another member when our investigators walked in. The member next to me, Brother dom or tree, who also is a return missionary, looked over and asked, "Is that a whole family?" I replied yes. He was really impressed. This idea that President Smith had of teaching families not just single people with families really works.

Not only have we had success in getting a family to church but now we are finding about 9 new investigators every week. We have several truly progressing investigators, and we have been finding about 30 people who might be investigators in the future every week. I have started losing sleep on all the people that I have to worry about helping progress. Its great.

One thing I do know is there is no way that I personally could have done this alone. The Lord has really blessed us to help this area grow. He has made us instruments in His hands.

One thing that I keep thinking about is that we can't get complacent or ever be satisfied. So Elder Peacock and I will continue to keep trying to improve. Its been a satisfying week.

Anyways so it sounds like you guys are having a good week on the beach. The beach house really has changed that much huh? sweet I hope I get a chance to go again when I get back.

About this Mercedes. I think Connor is right, I think it's just a joke you're playing on me. lol. I never saw any photos of it. So I don't believe that its true. But if it was true, I almost laughed because I know how much Dad wanted one and coincidentally it sounds like it was totaled. Sorry Dad. So what did the damage look like? How were the other Cars? Was anybody else hurt? HIw are you doing dad?

Hey last week I bought a card reader so i can send pictures a lot easier now. So I put some up. The first few are of Elder Peacock's and my adventure this morning. We went to a fabric shop to buy some cloth because Elder Peacock wants to make a book cover for his Book of Mormon in Thai. When we got there it literally was full of piles and piles of fabric. So I snapped some photos and thought that Mom would enjoy seeing how the fabric stores are here in Thailand. We spent a long time going through the very thin walking space to find some fabric that we liked.

The other photos are of our house. The first two are of the sleeping/study room. and the other our living room and kitchen. This house here is really really big for just 2 Elders. It has 4 bedrooms on the top floor, a kitchen a back yard....kind of, 2 bathrooms, with only one working shower. It's not perfect but it will do.

Connor. Its good to hear that you are getting in shape for next season. You've still got a long way to go until you beat my time in backstroke. You can't do it until I'm there to see you. Any ways good luck. Enjoy the rest of the summer.

OK I have to go. It just started to rain and we still need to get haircuts, sigh.

I love you all

Elder Brandon John Holt

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fourth of July in Thailand

Hello family
Well sad to say, Thailand doesn't have any 4th of July celebrations. I almost forgot it was fourth of July until I got up in front of the branch to bear my testimony for probably that last time in this branch, and it dawned on me. How amazing is it that we are able to have religious freedom in our country. This is something that I have been thinking about a little bit because I'm relatively close to the border of Laos. Where they really can't be anything other than Buddhist. I am not even sure if that's possible either. But the church does have one branch in the capital city of Laos. They are not allowed to put up any signs to say that there are Latter-Day Saints or that they believe in Christ. I also hear that they are persecuted a lot for their beliefs. How blessed are we? I think being here as a missionary has helped me to realize how important the Restoration was and what a miracle it was that it happened in America when it did and how it did. It goes to show us that Heavenly Father is really in control and that there is no need to fear.

Well this last week went by really fast. On Monday after Elder Peacock and I sent our emails, we went and met up with the Zone leaders in Udorn, and switched off from there. I switched off with Elder Degrafanit. I think that's how you spell his name, to make it easier he has Thai people call him Elder D. They can't really remember his name let alone say it. Anyways that night Elder D and I went to a family home evening at a members house who was having a neighbor over to introduce the missionaries. It was interesting, but in the end I think that they had a good idea of the elders and they might even get a chance to go back another day and teach.

That night we stayed in Udorn. Then in the morning we got up really early and started on the long bus ride home. That day was a good one. We taught an investigator named Dong, as in the sound the door bell makes ding dong. I wish I could add tones to this it would make it a whole lot easier to describe people's names. I guess I could write it in Thai ต๋อง I'm not sure that would help at all. Anyways. Dong is a sweet guy. He has a wife and 3 kids that we are trying to teach as well who aren't quite as interested but we are working on that. Dong was going to try to go to church but he said that his motorcycle was broken. We taught him about God and prayer again to help him understand better. Today we are going to go back and teach about prophets and the Savior's earthly ministry.

Elder D and I spent a lot of time inviting in that new area that we found last week. It was about 7 kilos away so each day we rode our bikes a long way but it was worth it. By Thursday we had the chance to teach 2 new families who we are going to try and get to church this week. It's really good to see our area moving again. It has been a long few weeks here without teaching anyone or having anyone to go to church. But that's all in the past.

I had an interesting experience that I want to share, but I'm a little worried about sharing because mom might over react. This isn't really as bad as it might sound. So on Sunday I really wasn't felling very good. I had a stomach ache and I wanted to throw up. Thankfully I have the members to look after me. In reality I have about 6 moms here in this branch. Anyways I left Sunday school a little early to go to the bathroom and as I came out one of the older members was there with an ovoltine milk. She gave it to me and made sure that I drank it even though I protested. I think it helped a little. Later the same member showed up with a bottle an off brand Peptobismal which also helped. I love the members here.

So throughout the week, the stomach ache didn't go away. So with my best knowledge of the missionaries I figured it was a worm or something like that. So I called Sister Smith who is our medical adviser for the missionaries. She wasn't too worried but said I needed to go to the hospital to get it checked out and get the drugs that I need to get rid of the worm if it was one. This was the experience that I want to explain. It really isn't as bad as it sounds. Elder D and I went to the hospital and handed my hospital card that says the the church insurance will guarantee pay to someone and after going through all the paperwork they led us to the waiting room. Or I think that's what it was. They were kind enough to give me a number as well to wait for. It was number 44. This room we were placed into had a lot of people in it. A lot. So much that Elder D and I just stood up on the side so we wouldn't have to fight for a seat. We hung around for about 2 hours talking to everyone around us. It really was kind of fun because everyone kept asking me why I was there, I just kept telling them that I ate a plate of som tum, or that papaya salad, that was too spicy. They always howled with laughter when they heard that and then told me that I shouldn't try to be like a Thai person. Really I think I could out do any Thai person in spice now days. And don't forget the rotten fish sauce. Yes I do eat that, if cooked right its OK to eat. Anyways so when my name was called I went up to a nurse and tried my best to describe what I was feeling, she tried her best to ask me the questions that she needed to ask. I think in the end neither of us understood because the doctor, or I think he was a doctor, asked about a hernia. Anyways after talking to that nurse she sent me to another part of the room where we sat and waited again. Its kind of fun to be with a big group of Thai people because if you are 6 feet or taller you can see over everybody head. Anyways after another waiting line, some more howls of laughter because of the "too spicy to handle joke" I finally got to see the doctor. I'm curious on where he went to school or what they teach doctors here. The examination he did goes as follows. He asked me to lift my shirt he poked me twice in the stomach and then said it was bacteria. Then he gave me a list of drugs and sent me on my way. I had to laugh when I got the drugs he gave me I could become a really rich drug dealer with how easily it was to get them.

Anyways afterwords, I gave Sister Smith a call to tell her about the visit and asked about the drugs. She okayed them and since I have taken them last week I feel a lot better. He must have been right. Funny how that happens sometimes. Anyways it was a fun experience that I hope I never have to deal with again. It really wasn't as bad as it seems, I promise mom.

At the end of the week we had Zone conference where we learned about our relations with the members and about the importance of teaching families. So here is a statistic that opened my mind. I think here is how it went I'm not sure about the math. But if every companionship was to teach on average 10 families of 5 people a week. Then with the numbers of missionaries in Thailand now, at 10 years down the road we still wouldn't have gotten close to teaching half of the population of 69 million people. We have our work cutout for us. Last year just after I came into the country President Smith set a goal to have the average number of people going to church each week around 8000 people in 10 years. That be a way to show that Thailand was getting ready for a temple. This last week in zone conference President Smith changed the goal and upped the bar. He said by teaching families like we have been in the past months we should be able to hit that number in 2 years. So the goal has change from Thailand having a temple in 10 years to having a temple in 2 years. I'm up for the challenge.

That made me really excited to be a missionary here in the next year.

Wow, Connor what a fun way to get your eagle. In the Stadium of Fire. I am sorry that I can't be there to sit in the eagles nest but I'll be there in spirit. Sounds like you guys had a great fourth of July. Did the parade happen on Saturday. what about fireworks. I was wondering how that worked out with it being on Sunday and all.

I remembered something that Grandpa told me before I got my mission call. He said he wanted me to go to Fiji so I could wear a lava lava instead of pants for church. I don't think I have ever talked about it. Here the native men use a thing called a Pa-kow-ma. which is just a cloth to wrap around your legs when you don't want to wear pants. I got one here a few months ago. Although I can't wear one when I'm tracting. It's fun to wear in the house at night. If I think about it, I might get a picture of me in one and send it home.

Well that's about it for this week.

I love you all
Eat a frozen banana for me

Elder Brandon John Holt