Monday, February 28, 2011

Open Your Mouth

When I was in the MTC Elder Tai came and gave a talk to the entire group of missionaries there. I didn't really know who he was but the MTC Mission President introduced him and he began to speak. His topic was about Missionary Work, as the talks always were. His theme was that to be a good missionary you have to open your mouth and talk to everyone you see. You have to be bold and outgoing.

I knew this was something I was going to have a hard time with because I tend to be shy and I am pretty happy being by myself out of the limelight. His talk was memorable though because he kept emphasizing "Open Your Mouth" by saying it louder and louder, and then he put his arms over his head with his fingertips touching to make a letter O while he said Open, then he made a Y with his arms when he said Your, and finished by making a letter M with his arms and body when he said mouth. he did that 2 or 3 times in a row to drive the point home. I got this mental image of the Mission President and his Councilors standing up to join him wearing hard hats and tool belts and all of them breaking into a modified rendition of the song YMCA, as the stage lights began flashing different colors and a disco ball lowered from the ceiling.

I'm not sure if I remember the talk because of Elder Tai's emphasis or because of the mental imagery I had, but it helped remind me throughout my mission that I needed to push myself to talk to as many people as I could.

Later in Thailand I had the privilege of hearing from Elder Tai again at a zone conference. More on that later.

Monday, February 21, 2011

J's doodling.

J likes to draw but he didn't like art class when he took it last year. I found these two pictures in a pile of scrap paper that I was going to throw away. I wish he spent a little more time on them and used one of his art paper pads instead of scrap paper. I'm not sure where he gets his inspiration from because his drawings are very unique.

When I first saw this one I thought it was of a boy peeing on a bush, and I was glad it didn't get turned in at school. Later when I showed it to Nuan I realized it is a clown making a balloon animal. I think that makes it a very clever drawing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dictionary malfunction.

One day my companion and I were riding our bikes on the main road through Yasotorn when a car drove by honking the horn. They suddenly pulled over right in front of us and the driver dressed in a Thai military uniform got out and said he needed help. We rode up to the car and the passenger rolled down the window. It was an American Army Captain with a confused look on his face. He introduced himself and explained that he was in Thailand on a training mission and his Thai counterpart was trying to show him around. The Captain had heard that one thing Thailand was famous for was silk, so he wanted to buy his wife some silk pajamas. He didn't speak Thai and his well meaning counterpart didn't speak English. He had a travel dictionary and had been communicating by pointing at words in English and his friend could read the Thai word. He was pointing at the word for buy, and then flipping pages to the word pajamas. His travel dictionary didn't have the word "silk" in it. The Thai officer nodded as though he understood and then drove him to a bar. The Captain tried again but this time added some hand motions for wife, clothes and sleep. He was taken to another bar. The Thai officer was on the way to yet another bar when they saw us. Upon examination of the words in the dictionary the translation for buy was correct but the word for pajamas had a typo so in Thai it only meant "sleep." The Thai officer thought his friend wanted to buy some sleep with a female companion. He was a little embarrassed when we explained that he wanted to buy pajamas for his wife. We led them to the big store in town and helped translate for the Captain. Unfortunately he couldn't find pajamas because as the sales associate explained, Thai silk is rough, not smooth like Chinese silk so it wouldn't make good pajamas.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mission story.

As missionaries we always set goals of how many people we were going to contact each week and how many discussions we would teach. All of that was supposed to lead up to baptisms.
One day when I was in Sisagate my companion and I were one person short of our goal for daily contacts. We were riding our bikes back from a member’s home hoping to find someone to talk to. We only had 20-30 minutes before we were supposed to be home and it was already getting dark. The streets were desolate and all the houses were closed up. We rode back and forth on a section of road that usually had people sitting outside, but there was no one around. It looked hopeless, so we decided to call it a day and go home a few minutes early. As we headed home we rode past a man sitting on a curb staring at the ground between his feet. He was dirty from head to toe and his hair was long and in dreadlocks knotted up with twigs and pieces of grass. There was obviously something wrong with him and he would not be eligible for baptism. The thought came to me, “If you talk to him you can mark off your goal.” I thought to myself, “I’m not going to talk to a crazy person just so I can mark off a goal, that’s cheating.” I rode by and the thought came to me again. “You need to talk to that person.” This time I could tell it wasn’t my own thought so I told my companion “We need to talk to that guy, I don’t know why but it won’t hurt anything, we can still be home before curfew.” I don’t know if he had felt a prompting too or if he just trusted me, but he agreed and we went back.
I rode up to him and got off my bike. He looked up at me when I said “Hi.” He had a wild and distant look in his eyes that really creeped me out. He said something, but I couldn’t understand it. It was obvious when he spoke that he had a mental handicap of some sort, but his eyes just screamed insanity. I told him we were missionaries and I asked him if he was interested in learning about Christ. He abruptly said “No,” and pointed into the forest behind him. He mumbled something but I couldn’t understand it. I stepped toward my bike and he pointed towards the forest and said, “Follow me,” as he walked into the forest. My companion and I looked at each other and we both shrugged, “Why not?” We grabbed our bikes and walked in after him. As we followed I tried to talk to him, but it was very difficult because he was in front of me so I couldn’t hear him very well, and he didn’t speak Thai very clearly. He just kept walking.
After a few dozen yards I started to get a little nervous. We were out of sight of the road and there was nothing around but trees and bushes. It started to feel more like a scene in a horror movie than real life. I could hear the news anchor in my head, “Two naive farangs followed a psycho into the jungle and get hacked to pieces…”
We came upon two traditional Thai houses on stilts next to each other. Our friend walked up into one of them without stopping. We weren’t sure if we were supposed to follow him or not so we stayed below. Even I was smart enough not to go into a crazy person’s house uninvited. He came back out right away and I was relieved he didn’t have a machete in his hands. He motioned for us to follow him up the stairs to the other house. When we went inside there was a person sitting in a chair with straight casts on both of his legs with a bar holding them wide apart. He was ghostly pale and looked sickly and in pain. I introduced us and asked if he would was interested in learning about Jesus Christ. He said he would like to learn. I was skeptical though I figured he really just wanted company. Since he was ailing I reasoned it would be good service to come visit him even if he didn’t want to learn about the gospel. We didn’t have time for a lesson then so we just visited for a few minutes and told him we would be back later in the week.
When we went outside the crazy dude was there. My companion and I grabbed our bikes and started to walk out the direction we came. He stopped us and pointed a different way that was perpendicular to the way we came in. I could vaguely see two tire ruts in the grass and he told us to go that way. We did and it popped us out on a road we were familiar with. We had ridden by that trail dozens of times and never even knew it was there.
We sped home as fast as we could because it was getting dark and now we were past our curfew by a few minutes. The next week we went back and taught a first discussion. The next appointment, no one was there, not even crazy dude. I was moved to another town a few days later. Several months later I ran into my old companion at a moves meeting. He was just leaving Sisagate. He had lots of news to tell me about members we had been working with. Some were coming to church and others were not. He told me that one of our investigators, Manun, got baptized. He showed me a picture of himself with the investigator dressed in white. I couldn’t remember who it was so he clued me in, “the guy in the leg casts.” He looked completely different, his face wasn’t pale and swollen anymore and had he looked happy. I’m sure it was because he was in such bad shape when I first met him and now he was recovered and healthy. I was a little surprised though because I though once he was better he would lose interest, but my old companion reassured me, “No, he’s good.”
Several months later my time was up and I was heading home. My parents and my Grandma went to Thailand to pick me up and we toured around to the places I had been. We were in Sisakate on Christmas and there was an activity at the church. We participated with them and had a good time. One of the new members asked me if I recognized him. I did, from the picture Elder Manwaring had shown me a few months earlier. He didn’t look anything like I remembered him. When we were leaving my parents were talking to some of the kids in the branch and Manun came to me and softly said “Thank you for finding me.” I was taken off guard and I didn’t know what to say. I hope I said something but I wasn’t able to explain to him how we found him. This picture was taken a few minutes later. Manun is standing next to me and the Branch President is on the far right. (I’m the farang on the left”)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


The other day Natasha asks, "Hey Dad, do you know how to play hanky-panky?" Despite my alarm I cooly replied "No, do you?" She blurts out with a smile, "Did you know you can play it with anyone? Do you want me to teach you?" I about passed out, but somehow managed to stammer "Uhhh, sure." She walks over to me and says, "You have to put your hands up in front of you and we clap together and sing "Down by the bank of the hanky-panky..."" I don't remember the whole song, but boy, was I relieved that was all it was.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Funeral Today.

My Great Uncle, Richard Thomas passed away earlier this week. I was able to attend the funeral held in his honor in Murray. Some wonderful memories were shared and I learned quite a few things about him that I didn't know before.
I remember when Michele, Jerel and I were little we would always get excited to go to Uncle Dick and Aunt Kay's house. I think it was usually on Sunday afternoons. The thing that excited us the most was the prospect of playing on the teeter-totter in their back yard. I also remember there was some trees back there that were really easy for us to climb into and that was fun. It is a bit strange to me now that I don't remember talking and visiting very much we just played outside and left the adults alone. I remember that there was a long clothesline in the backyard that I wished I could put a pulley on and slide along it. It seemed like it would have been great fun but I was too short to reach it. I also remember some hedges in the front yard. I though Uncle Dick must be the best landscaper around because to me the hedges were just cool, like a wall made of plants. I was small enough to crawl through them in some places. It came in handy when we were playing tag with some older kids.
I was a little sad that the hedges and the teeter-totter were both gone the last time I was at their house for a wedding. That time I spent some time talking with adult relatives though.
Our sad parting is undoubtedly a joyful reunion for those who have passed on before him.

Goodby Uncle Dick, we love you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Movies I watched last weekend.

Last weekend I watched a couple of World War 2 movies. Valkyrie and Defiance. Both of these were based on true stories. Valkyrie is about an assasination attempt on Hitler by German military officers. If you passed 7th grade you should know up front how it turns out but
it was still fairly suspenseful to watch. Defiance is about two Russian Jewish brothers who led a group of Jewish refugees in the forest while the Nazis occupied that part of Russia. It was both heart wrenching and inspirational. These men risked their lives but did something amazing that has blessed the lives of millions.
Fast forward a generation and we sit around eating cupcakes while playing Mafia Wars on facebook. When I hear of stories like these I feel like fiction is such a waste of time. Why do we have to invent super heroes and fantasy characters when there are so many true stories of regular people accomplishing amazing feats that improve humankind. They deserve to bed immortalized in history. Every culture and country has stories like these, it would be nice to see more of them published.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Nuan's talk in Stake Conference.

Nuan was asked to speak in the Adult session of Stake Conference.  Here is the talk she gave:

Hello, my name is Nuan Thomas.  I am originally from Thailand.  I have lived here in Utah for about 13 years.  A few weeks ago I was asked by President Hicken if I would share my testimony about the temple.

I was born in the northeast part of Thailand.  My Aunt and Uncle lived next door and they had 6 sons and no daughters.  My Cousins acted as my guardian angels and saved me from trouble from time to time and considered me to be their little sister. 

I met the missionaries when they came to teach my cousins the gospel.  The Elders invited me to join in the lesson.  I was a little rebellious and refused.  My cousins being the angels that they are, forced me to sit quietly and listen.  

The spirit spoke to me and I wanted to learn more, so the Elders arranged for the Sister missionaries to teach me.  When the lessons were completed I wanted to be baptized.  I was 14 years old at the time.  A few years later my mother was diagnosed with cancer and she died a short time later.

My extended family became angry with me after her death because I refused to serve as a nun at the Buddhist temple in her honor, which was a tradition there.

When I was first baptized all I knew about the temple was that it was the house of God.  I never had a plan to go to the temple because the closest one to Thailand at that time was the Manilla temple in the Philippines and it would cost a lot of money to go there.  With only a small income I had no way to go but I wanted to go there one day.  

The missionaries showed me pictures of some of the temples around the world.  Some of the missionaries told me their house was only a few blocks away from a temple and I was a little envious, because they could go to the temple all of the time.  Some of the church members in Thailand went to the temple in Manila and they shared their testimony about the temple.  

They sounded very happy and I wanted to go so bad.  I prayed for Heavenly Father to show me the way that I would be able to go to the temple.  When I was 21 years old, I entered the Thailand mission as a full time missionary.  

I still had hope that I would one day get to go to the temple but I did not know how it would ever happen.  One day I got a call from the mission office asking me if I had a passport.  If I didn't have one, I needed to go get one, because they were sending me to the Manilla temple.  

Heavenly Father had answered my prayer and found a way for me to go to the temple.  I went to the Manilla temple and got my endowment there.  I felt so blessed.  I felt like God was smiling and was so happy for me.  He was happy that I chose to serve him by going on a mission, and now I get to go to the temple.  

As I served my mission I met the man I would later marry.  I thought I would never get married in my life, but because I chose to serve the Lord he has given me everything.  Not only did I get married, I was able to marry someone who loved the same Lord and get married in the temple.  He has given me so many blessings in my life.

When I am here in the United States, especially here in Utah there are so many temples.  Less than a 15 minute drive and you can get to a temple.  Somehow I managed to not think about going to the temple, but thinking of things of the world and working or doing other things.  It is strange how those things can become more important than going to the temple.  The temple is so close and yet I can make it so far away that I can never manage to get there.

Until so many things have come into our lives, my husband and I decided we were going to go back to the temple.  Because only in the temple I can feel happiness and escape worry.

When I go to the temple my family is happier.  The children seem to be more obedient and there is more love in the home.  I also want to be a good example to my children because it is important for them to know the Temple is the house of the lord.

He has provided the convenience for us to go see him, and we should take the opportunity at least once a month.  To help others and to help our testimony grow.  I know this church is the true church.  I know the Temple is the house of the Lord, and I know Thomas S. Monson is the true prophet if God.  I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We are all nano meters from disaster.

Your hard disk has a little needle like head that floats on a cushion of air created by the spinning hard drive. The distance is measured in nano meters which are really really small. Now for a moment think about all the stuff on that disk. How much is it worth to you? How much did you pay for the data on your hard drive? Even if you don't have things on there that you had to fork over money for, there are things on there that took your time to create, organize, or set up. On my computer I have all my income tax records, bank records, music, home movies, family photographs, owners manuals to appliances, medical records, and other things. That is why I am a bit of a fanatic about backups.

There are all kinds of reasons why hard drives fail, and they do fail all the time. If you haven't yet experienced this then you are really living dangerously if you don't have a backup. I have had 3 hard drives fail, but I was able to recognize they were going bad and replace them before they died. 10 years ago you would have to buy a tape drive and they didn't hold much data and it would take all night to back them up. Now there are all kinds of great USB hard drives available. They hold tons of data and write very fast.

Here is what I do:

Every day or so I plug an external hard drive into my laptop and software automatically does an incremental backup, which copies all files that have been modified since the last backup. The software keeps as many incremental backups as it can and deletes the oldest ones as needed for the new ones. The drive I use is a 500 gigabyte western digital passport. They cost about $120 at Costco. The drive is always plugged in and always on, mostly for my own convenience. It does go into sleep mode when not in use though. This protects me from a hard drive failure on my laptop, and possibly theft because a thief probably won't take the time to untangle all the wires for it so it can be pulled out. It probably won't help in the event of a fire, lightning strike or other disaster, but the most common thing is for a drive to fail.

Since I have a laptop it is easy to take it to work where I have another USB hard drive that I copy the entire hard drive to about once a week. It stays in my drawer at work so I always have an offsite backup. This protects me from pretty much everything, including a lighting strike or fire, but I will most likely lose some data. At least a majority of it will be protected and it is easiest to reproduce the most recent things.

What is your strategy?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Why I don't like the news.

A while ago I was watching the evening news and I was reminded why I don't really do that. After they talked about the latest gang and drug problems Kevin Eubank said, "Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse... guess what folks, it can!" All of his colleagues agreed and he went on to talk about the next horrific event that was probably weather related but I don't remember.

I'm not really an ostrich, its just that every time I watch or read the news there are too many horrible stories.  I refuse to spend my time focused on the cesspool portion of humanity when I am surrounded by so many wonderful people who are doing great things with their lives.  That is one of the great things about blogs, e-mail and facebook, it allows me to focus on the good people I know, so I don't have to waste time with the news sites.