Monday, September 26, 2016

Unspoken Thoughts

Before I describe the title, I would first like to tell the world that the Stevenson family is number 1! They have had us over for dinner many times during the time that I have been in Laos, and they are just the greatest. They make the best Pav (Australian dessert) I have ever had. I love them dearly and would like to publicly thank them. Good luck Courtney!

SO BIG NEWS HERE IN LAO... we are moving churches and buying our own building. We have been renting the building we are at now for 10+ years, and we are finally buying a building of our own - really, really big step here in Laos... exciting times! 

The Work: 
This week we taught English. We also did something called a Handover. DIC (Deseret International Charities) built 2 new bathrooms for a school here in Vientiane. So Elder Magill, Elder Saunders, and I went to the school for a celebration. We built some water rocket launchers, and the kids loved it! I also told them I wanted to take a picture with them, and as the words were coming out of my mouth I got tackled by 30 small children. 

Hahahahaha you can see my face when they took me down in this next picture. 

Tackle the Farang (White guy)

After they had me on the ground, I shouted a plea for help… and not receiving any, I yelled to the kids – “Tackle the other white guy!” And they did…. It was a re-run of Lord of the Flies – cute Lao edition. So adorable. I love children so much. They are so adorable. Other than that, a lot of the lessons we taught this week were filled with the Spirit. Our ward mission leader, Brother N_____ (former Elder G_____) is an absolute baller and totally helped me out this week. A lot of times, I have fears of falling away from the Church after I go home. Which I think is a rational thought – I think a lot of missionaries think about what they will do when they get home, especially spiritually, in order to “feed” their spirits. Today I will be talking about those thoughts in my Spiritual Thought section. It is always good to plan, no?

The Bottom Line: 
Being a missionary brings some of the greatest joy to my spirit because I feel like I am participating in saving a human soul. It is stressful and taxing. But feeling like I have a part in helping someone else come to understand who God is…that is a wonderful thing.

The Culture:
 If you sneeze in America, it is polite to say, “Bless you.” In Laos, when someone sneezes, they say, “Oh you must have not taken a shower this morning.” Hahahahahahahahahaha.

Dancing traditional Lao dance like a boss

Asians love peace

The Funnies:
1. Elder Magill is just about 1 month away from finishing his missionary service. This last week while we were playing football with the deaf kids, his ENTIRE SOLE OF HIS SHOE came completely off it was awesome.

2. The deaf kids (on a separate occasion) found me and tackled me to the ground, tickling me all the way therejust laughing their heads off hahahahaha. I am afraid my shirts are getting pretty dirty. Sorry President - its not my fault….

3. A bird flew into our office so we had to get it out.

4. A different bird pooped on me this week. Classic.

The Spiritual Thought
I prayed about what to share today. The Holy Ghost told me to talk about faith. Now today I am going to take a different look at faith. Yesterday, I wrote down all of the things I thought about faith. I wrote down everything, including a lot of the things that are unspoken. 

Here is the list I got.  Maybe you can find some parallels.
-          Intangible
-          Unknown
-          Grows or shrinks relatively quickly.
-          Highly affected by outside factors.
-          Unmeasurable
-          Hard to track progress with faith.
-          Only “religious people” use the word.
-          Makes us feel weak…like we need faith as a crutch when something goes wrong.
-          A man named Jesus, 2000 years ago, apparently told everyone we needed to “have” it. However          we have that emotion or how to get it, who knows, right? 
-          Risky.

The second wave of thoughts about faith:
-          Faith encourages a more positive outlook on life.
-          Helps motivate.
-          Builds a relationship of trust with whatever you believe in.
-          Creates an unshakable spiritual foundation.
-          Inspires action, most of the time those actions are acts of selfless service.
-          When I say the word, it just makes me feel good.
-          Faith is a principle of power.
-          You can work miracles.
-          It inspires confidence in action. You get answers to the mysteries of the world through faith.

So there are two ways to look at faith. These thoughts are things I think about every day. Both negative and positive. I think a lot of times religious people, Mormon or not… tend to stay away from acknowledging that those negative and doubtful thoughts exist. To do that would just be unfair to your ability to think…in fact, it is insulting the Creator who gave you the ability to choose. Not making a choice, not acknowledging doubts and confronting concerns is a quick way to create a false sense of spiritual security. For example, if your faith were a beautiful stained glass window not strengthened with lead between each piece of glass, and a baseball came at it at 100 miles an hour, it would shatter when the baseball hit. So hearing someone say, "Joseph Smith was a pedophile who married a 14-year-old” is like one of those 100 mile an hour baseballs heading for a window of faith not supported by a strong, internally-embedded structure. Or someone might say, “The Church didn’t give the blacks the priesthood because Mormons are racist” – another baseball trying to destroy your faith. Lastly they might suggest, “The Church is an organization that claims to be good but in reality is a big money ball” – another baseball (no pun intended). 

It is my prayer that we can look at our concerns with tolerance… and then try to fix them. They are natural. It is OK to have these thoughts. But let us please talk to God first before going to the media or our friends or even our family… I mean, let’s be honest here people - God knows best. I for one try to cling to the faith that I do have. It is hard sometimes to focus on my belief. But I know that when I do, I can literally feel my spirit and character changing. And in that, I know that my Heavenly Father is happy with me. All I am doing is trying. But after all, dads are always happy when we try.

Sorry if that offended anyone, but it needed to be said. I have faith that there are 3 people that needed to hear this today. I promise you that you will know who you are the minute you read these words. Please don’t reject your feelings. Accept them, and talk with God about them. As Nike so wisely tells us, “JUST DO IT.” 

Love the Lord and Laugh, 
ອັບຣາຮາມ ສະມິດ-ດິກສ
Abraham Smith-Driggs  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Full-Grown White Mushu

whats the matter? Never seen a black and white before?” - Mushu (from Mulan). My fellow family and friends! (and for the Lao and Thai people reading this as well – ສະບາຍດີ and สวัสดี) The title of my email reflects a sentence Elder Saunders said to me on Thursday. He said that it was always interesting and fun to have a full-grown White Mushuin the house (referring to Elder Smith-Driggs) ;)

I found a cool dead thing so I lifted it up

Too good of a picture not to post 
The Work
I am reminded every week of the amazing faith our investigators have. Quick story for you. About 1 month ago our friend, B____, came into the church. His older brother is serving as a missionary right now in Thailand, and he is currently living with another RM, and works with our branch mission leader. He was intrigued what made everyone who came to church so happy all the time. He didn’t understand. He had learned before but wasn’t interested. A month ago he decided to give it a second shot. He picked up the Book of Mormon and just started reading. He is to 2 Nephi 8 now. He reads and reads and reads. He loved it so much during one of the lessons he kissed the BOM. He was so grateful he had a book that makes him feel the love of God. He prayed yesterday and thanked God for being there to answer “a child’s prayer.” B____ told us yesterday that he is so excited to start a new life and get baptized. He said that he knew the Book of Mormon was true and that he was excited to serve a mission like his older brother. In his words, “Well if I know this is true, OF COURSE I would preach it…” 

I am so grateful for people who put the work into finding spiritual truth. B____ has a date for the 2nd of next month. It is spiritually draining, to be sure, which is why most people give up. In this spiritual frontier, the unknown is too threatening. Spiritual laws go hand in hand with personal revelation. We, as children of God, are entitled to answers. All we have to do is ask. Is it unknown? You bet…you have never tried it before. Is it completely bogus? Well…why don’t you put your heart into it to find out. Logically, we cannot get results if we do not test with all the necessary elements of the equation. I encourage everyone reading this blog to give the Book of Mormon a shot, just like B____ did. This week, we also worked on translating the song – “Come thou fount of every blessing” into Lao. It was way fun to sit down at a piano with the members and just go to work! AWESOME STUFF. It felt way cool to just sit there and watch them work their magic.

Elder and Sister Jensen + Elder and Sister Carter = THE BEST

The Bottom Line: 
Teaching English can be a lot of fun as long as you understand the culture of the students and embrace it with open arms.  Do the things they do, learn their native songs, and you will have their hearts:)

Teaching the deaf kids

Missionaries can all relate

The Culture:

1. Big thanks to Brother S____ for teaching me how to do the Lao line dance. I showed it to the deaf students at CMR, and they got really excited and started to line dance with me. Hahaha whether you can hear or not, a good ol’ dance is classic.

2. Here in Lao, the streets are sprayed down daily to wash leaves and various objects into the gutters. They have a big water truck and a guy with a hose, and they just walk down the side of the road. Very efficient - gotta keep those roads cool, you know what I’m sayin?! 

3. All of the food bought for the day is bought in the morning daily if you are planning to make anything yourself (to preserve freshness).

How Asian am I right now?

4. Physical contact between lovers/boyfriend/girlfriend (similar to Thailand) is very, very rare. It is very, very brave to hold a girl’s hand. And if you do, it’s almost 100% you have been dating for a long, long time. Most people start dating around age 25-27, after they finish school. No kissing allowed… especially in public. No way. That’s gross people, come on ;)

The Funnies:

1. While I was teaching, and we were doing Karaoke with the students, the guitar solo came on in one of the songs, and I just went hard playing the air guitar. Now, the Lao people are very reserved people. Kind of like the Japanese but WAY more relaxed. So when crazy “white mushu” comes in the room and plays the air guitar solo...they just laughed and laughed and laughed.

2. In one of my beginner classes at the local college, I taught the students how to ask ,“Have you ever”… with corresponding answers. When one of the men asked one of the women, “Have you ever loved me?” hahahahahahahahaha everyone just laughed, and I thought it was really cute hahaha.

The Spiritual Thought: 

Last week, I was reading a talk given by Dallin H. Oaks called, “Good, Better, Best.” ( He talks about the Savior’s teaching in Luke 10:40-42. There are many people in the house, including two women (Martha and Mary). Jesus is also at the house. It tells us that Martha is busy working around the house, doing lots of chores. Busy with this, Jesus counsels Martha (troubled and busy with many things) that “one thing was needful.” The other woman in the house, Mary, chose to stay with the Savior and “hear his word.” For sure she had chores to do as well, but she knew that the only thing she needed that day was to listen to the Savior. It was the “best” decision she could have made, if you will. Elder Oaks advises us to make a choice between the good, better, and best decisions. In this situation, Martha was anxiously engaged in a good cause. She was doing chores, being a great mom, just rocking it… but she missed the most important thing because she chose the “good” decision. There are good decisions, i.e going to church. There are better decisions, i.e doing your home teaching every month. And there are the best decisions, i.e making a concerted effort to make a difference in the lives of the people you home teach. For all you teenagers out there. Good decision: playing soccer. Better decision: playing soccer with your family. Best decision: coming home on time for family dinner after soccer practice is over. It is my argument that the best decisions we can be making always involve God and always involve our family. Which is why we have family councils, why we have family dinner, why we have family scripture study and family prayer every day. These “best” decisions help us to become closer to our Heavenly Father than anything else. May we always be mindful of the decisions we make… are they good decisions???? Can we be doing something better? Better yet… best? You decide.
Love the Lord and Laugh, 
ອັບຣາຮາມ ສະມິດ-ດິກສ

Abraham Smith-Driggs 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

House arrest? Sort of...

For all intents and purposes, we spent this week entirely in our home. Elders Magill and Morley went to Thailand for the week. My visa wasn’t yet good to go back over… so Elder Cheney, Saunders, and I have been confined to our house the entire week. The ASEAN Conference has required certain precautions for citizens, and so the Church is being extra careful not to send people looking like representatives out on the streets (especially in groups of 5 hahaha) President Johnson told us to stay in our home the whole week. This weekly email will give you the day by day…. Please be prepared to be amazed;)

The Work: 
Sep. 4: No church today. Five elders stayed at home. Watched some church movies, had a testimony meeting, called all the members in our phone. Took a nap. 

Sep. 5: Elder Magill and Morley leave for Thailand. And then there were 3. Went outside for lunch then came back quickly. Read some books about Laos. Read the scriptures, played speed Scrabble.

Hahahaha...we found Scrabble! 

Sep. 6: Same thing as yesterday. Starting to get pretty boring.

Sep. 7: Same thing as two days before that… now very bored.

Look who made me breakfast.

Sep. 8: Super bored, BUT the Jensens and the Carters came over to our house for dinner. It was SO nice of them. The Jensens made us some delicious cheesy chili nachos – literally manna from heaven. Amazing! 

Sep. 9: Got my visa and went to Thailand! I got to talk openly about JESUS CHRIST! WOOHOOOO SUPER DUPER AWESOME. I spent the day doing random things and regular missionary work. What a blessing.

Sep. 10: In Thailand, and since it was our pday, we spent it with all the Nongkhai branch members hahahah - the most beautiful sights today! We went and saw a cave, went to a waterfall, and went to some lookout points over Lao. WOW.  

The Border (totally safe don't worry)

You may see a lot of pictures of me doing crazy things in this post - those pics all occurred in 24 hours just across the border in Thailand. But almost 100% of the week I was in the house. Hahahahaha sorry. I hope the title makes more sense now. 

Playing in the water with NongKhai members!


Toured a cave...on our hands and knees ;)

The Bottom Line: 
Be grateful for the days that all of you missionaries get to go out and proselyte and cry repentance. We can’t do that here in Laos. We couldn’t even teach English this week… ugh.

The Culture: 
The Government has been doing such a great job at making sure the roads are clean and prepping everything for the ASEAN conference. Bravo to them! 

The Funnies:  
PLEASE KEEP IN MIND that the funnies from this week will most likely not be funny to all of you. Now this is understandable. Keep in mind that Elder Cheney, Elder Saunders and I have been together 24/7 in a house by ourselves for almost 6 days now. Anything is funny to us.
  1. The funnies of the week come from E. Cheney, who got his yoyo caught in his shorts twice this week. It probably wasn’t that funny but being cooped up in a house with the same guys for 5 days makes anything funny hahahahah.
  2. Elder Cheney is from a town with 2000 people in it in the middle of Oregon. The town is called Vernonia. He said this yesterday, “Not many high schools in the U.S. have a forestry class. You bet Vernonia did, and they 'took state' every year.”
  3. “Maybe I can learn guitar” - Abraham (for the record I learned 1 new chord... look out John Lennon) 
Delicious sweet pumpkin

The Spiritual Thought: 
This week I was reminded of the blessings of being anxiously engaged in a good cause. It is such a blessing to be busy. Not crazy pull your hair out busy, but busy enough that you aren't in your house all day - the Lord does not want his servants to be lazy. There are so many blessings from being anxiously engaged. Sitting on the xbox all day - sorry guys, not a good use of time. Maybe for like max 30 minutes...but there are better things to be doing. Now you don’t need to go save the world or anything... but send someone a text telling them you love them... anything to let other people know that you care. Get off the couch and make someone smile! (That includes me except I was forced to stay on the couch hahahaha.) I love you all and am so grateful for your influence in my life. You rock fam! 

Love the Lord and Laugh, 
ອັບຣາຮາມ ສະມິດ-ດິກສ

Abraham Smith-Driggs  

P.S. Mom comment: I am taking the liberty of adding a story Abraham relayed to us that touched my heart.  These young missionaries in Laos do not get to preach about Christ right now, but they do get to help some Laotians experience things they have not experienced before.  As I understand it, almost every day, the five elders go to a school for the deaf in Vientiane.  About a week and a half agothe elders were volunteering as usual at the school for the deaf when children from the school for the blind came to visit.  Abraham said it was so wonderful to be with all the children as friends, interacting with each other, some blind, some deaf.  He then told us about a young boy who was blind asking Abraham about his bike.  Abraham asked him if he wanted to ride it.  The child was amazed and said, "Really?" So Abraham and another elder held on to the child as he rode a bike for the first time in his life.  It's moments like that that touch the soul even when you can't preach about Christ.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Pure Emotion

--- feels like hot chocolate being poured into my soul when spending time with the deaf children here in Lao. Amazing week this week. Absolutely amazing. 

Hahaha my students gave me an apple... I am a legit teacher now.

The Work: 

SO INTERESTING NEWS - Because of the ASEAN conference that is being held here in Vientiane this next week, we are not allowed to go outside of our house (except to eat food), and we can't be in groups larger than 5 (government orders). We will NOT be having Church services tomorrow. It will be the first (and hopefully last) time I have not gone to church on my mission. The government has shut down all schools and activity for this conference. I have no idea why... but they did, so we follow their lead! SO we 5 elders will be staying at our house for this whole week...doing nothing but napping and studying the scriptures and maybe an occasional card game. Pretty weird huh? Hopefully, we don't kill each other hahahahahaha. In other news - we got two newbies here in Laos baby LET’S GOOOOOO!!! Elder Cheeney and Elder Saunders arrived in Lao last Wednesday night at like 10:30 pm.  They were a bit shell shocked that first day hahahah. The work here in Lao is totally different. I absolutely love it here. A lot of missionaries think it is just a vacation, but that is totally not true hahahaha. It is hard being here in Lao, it is. You can't share the gospel, and so you are forced to fill your time with other things. Sometimes we just have hours where we are not doing anything, and we are stuck at the church. It is just the way it goes. I know that probably sounds so strange to missionaries out there, but that is how the Church operates in a communist country. The only other communist countries currently in the world are China, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea. So we do the best we can. I love it here in Lao, I really do. 

National monuments. Lao is great!

The "Bottom Line": 

This week, as you can tell from my email title, has been focused a lot on emotions and responses to emotions. The bottom line is that if you can't laugh at your mistakes (whether it be language or personal), you are going to have a very hard time bouncing back and moving on. Please, take a load off your stressful lives and just laugh a little.... laughing is of God, and it helps with so much! 

The Culture: 
  1. For scaffolding, instead of metal they use bamboo (IMAGINE THAT).
Queue for FREE BURGERS today!!!!!!!!!!

2. As an excuse for not saying something or doing something.. it is very common to say "I am shy..."

3. There is no TV here in Lao. Their stations are all in Thai. 

4. There have been lots of government officials going around Vientiane, and so all traffic is stopped to allow for their safety. We also see tanks and soldiers regularly (actually we only saw 1 tank but "tanks" sounds a lot cooler). 

5. Unlike Thai, Laotian (the language) is much more loosey goosey on the tones... so it is hard to tell what is "correct" and what is just "spoken language"... I LOVE IT.

Market of wonderus exotic frutas

The Funnies: 
  1. When we first saw the tank we were way pumped and wanted to take a picture with it so the soldiers consented and we took a picture with a Lao tank! WOOHOOOO 
The Elders of Lao

2. Sometimes we pretend that we don't speak Lao when ordereing food. So when we order meat, we act out and sound out the animals. The waitresses think we are absolutely hilarious hahahahahaa.


3. We had some "culture training" in my English classes this week, and I showed a couple of them the "cupid shuffle," which is just a line dance I learned growing up. We taught them how to do it, and we all did it as a class hahahahaha. Hopefully I can put a video in to show you all - It was HILARIOUS.

English students took us to lunch!

Spiritual thought: 

This week I felt impressed to talk about Pure Emotion along with Love. Every day we get to go and visit the deaf students at the National Rehabilitation Center. All the elders in Lao get to study sign language and teach the deaf children. They are amazingly happy. Like I said earlier - it feels like hot chocolate :). Something I noticed right off the bat was that they all laugh. I am talking hearty laughs...not just giggles. Now, mind you, they can't hear themselves laughing, but they laugh nonetheless. It is raw emotion. Everything that comes out of their mouths is completely raw emotion. It strengthened my faith that GOD laughs up in heaven every day. He gave every one of his children emotions - and these Christlike deaf children exude love and happiness. They are amazing, and we get along great. For those who know me, I am very crazy, and I move my hands a lot so the deaf kids just eat it up hahaha. I even have a deaf name! I will show you it later. Anyways - their example to me this week made me think about LOVE. Love is defined as "deep devotion and affection." I was struck by the definition because the primary word is devotion, implying loyalty. Isn't that what love is? As human beings - the people that we love...we are always loyal and devoted to them because we cherish that love. It is my prayer that we can show God how much we love him through being loyal to him. We are loyal to God by keeping the commandments. I know as we keep the commandments, we can literally feel God's love for us. And, similar to a return investment - we are enticed to invest more and give more and more and to stay loyal to that Creator who loved us enough to die for us. May we love loyally is my prayer today in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

Miss you guys. Stay sweet.


Love the Lord and Laugh, 
ອັບຣາຮາມ ສະມິດ-ດິກສ

Abraham Smith-Driggs