I think I told you that this area is extra hard and in fact has a history, not only among the missionaries, but the members as well.... actually I probably didn't. It does. There is a HUGE problem here, and it is exasperated by the Branch President. When I was companions with Sister Holmes I was so curious. I could tell there was some sort of problem here, but I couldn't tell what it was, and because we were too busy trying to get people baptized, we didn't really talk with the members.
Enter Sister Sawangwong (yes, she is Thai). She saw one of the less active member's pictures on the wall, and was like, we need to go visit her. It turns out that she knew her, and this member and her mother just gushed all this information on what is going on in the branch: how this one family basically rules it, and the Branch President is super judgmental, and many, many other things.
So, we took that information for what it was worth, and determined to see for ourselves, and visit other members. We already knew that there are about five new members that are all friends, and they have been shunned by the "old members", and don't always come to church.
We went around and found various less actives and they all said the same thing: "We don't feel welcome at church. Even if we came back, everyone would judge us. When you change the president, we will consider it." >_<
It's hard. But I am so thankful for Sister Sawangwong. Almost every person that we talked to said, "I wouldn't have told you if you weren't a Thai person," because I can understand most of it, but some of it goes over my head. She is so great and determined to help this branch. Needless to say, I think that we both will be here for a looong time, trying to help these members. But it is so hard. It seems like we have made no progress. Missionary work, finding, teaching, baptizing, it's easy to see how you're doing, because you find new people, or teach, or baptize. It's easy to see their progress, or lack of it. This is way hard, but we know that God is with us, and we are trying to seek His guidance in every action.
On the cheery, happy side of things, even with all the stress going on with this, we had a baptism!
Yeah, so with half of our district being Thai, we speak mostly Thai here. Elder Sugihara and I feel weird if we talk in English with each other, because neither of our companions will understand us. So, if my English gets noticeably worse, that's why.
Well, looking over this, it's kind of a bleak e-mail. Know that we are happy. I love sister Sawangwong so much. She is so funny, and we get along really well. I'm not in despair, I know God will open a way, it's just stressful to wait and worry about our recent converts, less active members and investigators and active members for that matter. Worry that if we don't do something fast, Satan will get to them. Yup. So we need your prayers! I'm sure you are praying for me, but... don't forget!
Love you all,
Cultural fact: There are lizards that are called "duke gaas" (that's an approximate guess on how it's pronounced.) Thai people are terrified of them. They range in size, from large gekko sized, to kitten-sized. They are poisonous, and I've been told the bigger ones can kill a grown man. Another fun fact: when they bite, their jaw locks, and you have to wait until it releases you, or else you have to kill it. You can't just pull it off.
Spiritual thought: If ye have not charity, ye are nothing. I testify this is true. "We cannot truly love our father in heaven, if we do not love your fellow brothers and sisters." I am not mad at these members. I do not know how to explain the feeling. I truly love every one of them. And it just makes me so frustrated/disappointed/mad/sad that they cannot look at each other as Jesus would, to see the limitless potential and not the current flaws.
Dear family, DO NOT hold on to grudges, PLEASE let people change. The atonement is the power to change, and it is free to everyone.