Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Humble Service from an Old Friend

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Work: 
Another week of hitting up almost every single member in the Lao branches we could physically go to. I love my job! 

This week we went to visit a man named Brother Khamwad. Now, Brother Khamwad has been a member of the LDS Church for many years. He is one of the pioneers here in Lao. He speaks English quite well! What does he do with his gift? He teaches a free class in his small village to all the children who will come. He has about 7 students. He pours his heart and soul into these students, working for hours each day to plan lessons, write grammar principles up on his chalkboard. He reviews his handmade vocabulary posters. When he finishes his class, he goes straight to the modern scriptures, translating the "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church." He has translated COMPLETELY the “Teachings of Joseph Smith” and the “Teachings of Lorenzo Snow.” He told me, "Elder Abraham, when I don't have anything to do, and it's a hot day, I sit in my chair and read and write and read and write some more. I want to learn from the Church. I love the Church." His faith is shown by his dedication to the Lord. We are all given blessings in this life, some have to work hard to understand what some of their spiritual gifts are. But it is my belief that it doesn't matter exactly what the gift is or whether we "have" it or not. It is what we DO with it that matters. In the Doctrine and Covenants we learn that God did not give us spiritual gifts for our benefit alone. Those gifts can only be acquired through helping others. Boy, does Brother Khamwad do just that. I know that the Lord is more than proud of this little old man. I respect and honor Brother Khamwad with all my heart. What a testament of dedicated service. Here are some pictures.

Brother Khamwad. Humble Servant of the Lord

The Culture: 
In the back of one of the vans headed up to visit a member, this woman popped a squat next to me and started to munch on some snacks. I asked what they were, and she held up some quail eggs. She offered me one. I accepted. As I peeled back the shell, I realized that when she meant quail eggs she meant it. A nice little quail fetus was chillin’ in the egg. I asked her how to eat it. She smiled and kindly told me to ,"Squeeze it out into your mouth." I did so. Not bad. Not good either. 2 years ago - no chance I would eat that. But I did yesterday. I am so grateful for change :) (Hope you aren't squirming at this Mom...) 

The Funnies: 
1. We were talking with Chandii and Lily, who recently returned from America. Lily went to get an eye surgery. We asked them about America, and this is what they said. (Keep in mind this is their first time out of 3rd world Lao going to 1st world America...we are so blessed.) 
  • "There are roads and multiple lanes in the mountains! And lights in the mountains too!" 
  • "Those old people must be really skilled they can ski... those boots they wore must be heavy. Very strong old people in Utah.” 
  • "A washing machine for your plates? That's crazy awesome!" 
  • "You guys go to bed late and wake up so late... the sun goes to bed so late too!" 
  • "I like the snow, it was like fabric softener!" (I love that one) 
2. We were also helping Sister Buabai, who has just been called to serve in the California, Santa Rosa mission. She leaves in August! So excited for her. She is terrified because she knows no English! When I went online and showed her pictures of her mission, her eyes went wide and she said, "It is so beautiful and clean and fancy." As we sat down to work on her visa, I quickly realized that Sister Bua had never used a computer before. She was raised on a farm in the middle of Lao. We set up her email together, teaching her how to use the mouse... seeing her face as it lit up when she saw the mouse connect to the monitor... realizing that this was the "internet." She will have a lot to learn on her mission. It will change her life. She is so scared. But when I talked to her I said, "Sister Bua, I know you don't know how to do this right now. You can't use a computer very well. But I don't know how to plant rice. Can you plant rice?" She answered: "Of course can't everyone?" I replied, "No... it is very hard for me... I have to learn. But I can learn right?" She said, "Of course! I can teach you!" I replied, "The same goes for you and computers and English! You can do it Sister Bua. Think of it like planting rice!" She felt a little better after that, bless her heart. She has so much faith. It takes a lot of faith to do what she is doing. No one will speak her language when she goes to America. Calling out to anyone in that mission... please keep a good look out for my friend. She is scared - but you can all help her! 

Mom comment: I love it when people label and ask for the help they need.  Because of Elder Smith-Driggs telling us about Sister Bua, we contacted Ben’s best friend who lives where??? You guessed it - Santa Rosa, CA. He says the mission president, APs, and mission home are in his ward, and he is the ward mission leader.  So he will be very aware of Sister Bua from the outset and can help her. I love God’s tender mercies.

This week we biked 72 kilos (round trip) to visit some members. I liked the backpack sweat mark - hope none of you are grossed out. Good exercise. Felt good hahahahah.

Mosquito killer picture... classic

Elder Cheney doing his thing. #latenighttranslations

The Spiritual Thought: 
I have written a lot today, and God bless you if you have read it all. I realize it takes time to read these long emails. I can't tell you how much it means to me that people take the time to read about the Lao culture and about what I did during the week. Thank you. My humble prayer today is that we may all remember how blessed we are. Those in Thailand and those in America - we have it all. We have everything updated, new and improved. Our lives as far as living day-to-day are a peace of cake compared to what some of the Lao people do every day. I am NOT inferring that this has to do with spiritually "having it all." On the contrary, Heavenly Father has given us bodies to do our best with what we are given. He doesn't love the rich more...nor did he before the world started. We are accountable to God with the things we have been given. Let us magnify our calling. Let us be grateful for the many blessings the Lord has given us. I am grateful I live in the United States of America. Every country has problems, but I still sing the song of "I'm proud to be an American" every day. In fact, it is our alarm every day. We are so blessed, let us share that. Thanks brothers and sisters. I miss you and I pray for you. God bless you this week.

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

Abraham Smith-Driggs  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lao New Easter

Monday, April 17, 2017

Quick update for ya'll (that's for all you Texans)...

There were only three days between P-days last week, and they went like this: This weekend was the Lao New Year. The entire country shuts down for three full days filled with lots of drinking, dousing one another with water, and eating with friends and family. 

The Culture: 
Lao people love their speakers. The louder, the better. The quality of the music doesn't necessarily matter, but rather the intensity and the big "boom" "boom" of the bass. All day. All night. So we took a break, read some scriptures, and visited some members. 

But we got to play too! The members took us to a river where we waded in splashing each other and having a jolly old time. 

The Funnies:
As the members swam, they looked at Elder Cheney and me and said, "Elders, can't you swim?" Elder Cheney and I are both certified life guards hahahaha. We just laughed and told the members that it was against the rules. They were like "OK no worries...but you can swim right?” We assured them of our ability to swim hahahaha. Elder Cheney has saved multiple children from drowning actually hahahaha. 

The Spiritual Thought: 
For many, the Lao New Year is all about the booz, the beats, and the babes. It made me cringe looking at so many of these people lost, "finding happiness"... then waking up the next morning with their aching hangover just to play hard again a second, then a third day. I remember distinctly praying over my food in the middle of the street. People were chucking water balloons filled with red paint, and everyone was trying to get me to drink beer hahaha. All I wanted to do was eat my fried rice. As I prayed over my food, I thanked God for the peace that the gospel brings. I thanked him for the Word of Wisdom. I thanked him for my family members. In a world of chaos, where everything goes "boom" "boom"... the Spirit of the Lord can still reside with us if we SEEK it. Fantastic week this week. Thanks God. 

Love the Lord and Laugh, 
ອັບຣາຮາມ ສະມິດ-ດິກສ

Abraham Smith-Driggs  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Cure for Spiritual Overload . . . slow down.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Work
This last week has been filled with trips to Bangkok to do more visa stuff. Very busy. Elder Cheney and I were surprised to see our dear friends from Myanmar at the AP's apartment! I want to thank Elder Young for his Snickers bar and tie that he gave me at midnight when he woke me up with a smile and a hug (hahahahahaha) as he rolled into the apartment with the rest of the Myanmar Elders. What a surprise! It was so good to see a dear friend, along with fellow MTC buddy Elder Krebs! Keep up the good work over there my friends. 

For those of you who don’t know, the Thailand Bangkok Mission covers 3 countries: Thailand, which speaks Thai and holds about 160 missionaries, Myanmar, which speaks Burmese and holds 8 missionaries, and Lao, which speaks Lao and currently holds 2 elders….. WE NEVER get to see our friends from Myanmar, as they are 2 countries away from us. You just have to accept when you get assigned to one of these countries you tend not to see very many other missionaries hahahaha.

The entire country of Laos has been anxiously preparing for the new year celebration (April 14-17), where everyone sprays each other with water and drinks a lot of beer and listens to very loud music. Quite a jolly time (except for the beer). Elder Cheney and I have been spending as much time as we can with the members. Quick story - Last week we took a trip north to visit a family (9 children/young adults) who are taken care of by 1 grandmother. The grandma, interestingly enough, is not a member. But she lets all of her 9 grandchildren/children she looks after go to church every Sunday with their oldest nephew (Brother _____) taking the lead. This faithful extended family each has their own Book of Mormon, which they read together during the week in their humble home. They come 1.5 hours to church every week as they catch the bus to Vientiane. As we shared our message, each individual child from ages 5 to 17 brought their individual B.O.M in Lao out to share their simple testimonies. They love the Lord. 

I am reminded every week here in this blessed country that you don’t need earthly possessions to be happy. Happiness comes from simplicity of lifestyle, one which is centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I fear that too often we are faced with so many options and so many things that compete for our spiritual time, that we forget to put our hearts into the things that matter most. I think it would be accurate to note that in a country where people have so very little, to them that is enough, and they are happy with their standard of living. Happiness doesn’t come from a gift, nicely paved roads, whether or not your political party won the election, or if that certain stock option you invested in shot up… rather, it comes from those we care about most, doing the simple things. 

The Savior of the world, the master teacher and creator of the universe lives by very few rules. He was raised by a carpenter. He didn’t have an iPhone. He didn’t need one. He loved God and he showed it through his actions. And so it goes for the rest of us. An iPhone and paved roads are nice, but the Gospel is just a little bit better (in my opinion).

Good luck to Sister Lily in Australia! We are all cheering you on! Thanks again Mom for picking her up in SLC - what a miracle! Big S/O to Sister Amphai for following the Spirit as well and STAYING!

The Culture: 
Here in Lao, the most common shoe worn is the flip flop. They don’t wear tennis shoes when they go outside… it is the flip flop all the way. They have casual flip flops, work flip slops, dressy flip flops, all sorts of flip flops. Because it gets hot, people will just take their shoes off and sit crosslegged on a chair or on the ground and take a break for a little bit.

Vientiane is a very small capital city, with a strange charm. I was talking to Brother Sean Brown about it the other day. I can’t explain it adequately, but there is something about the small city of Vientiane that calls to all people. I think it has to be its wonderful people. As Elder Cheney and I spent a lot of time in Bangkok this week, I was reminded of how different the culture is. The people look way different (it’s because they do actually come from a different country/culture). And the culture is go go go - kind of like America, which is why most foreigners find Bangkok appealing, and a city like Vientiane to be… how do you put it...slow? Yes, that sounds right. Neither is “right,” but it is just a preference. Both are nice though. So grateful to be in this beautiful part of the world to experience these great cultures.

The Funnies:
1. Needless to say, Elder Cheney and I had a couple of big mess ups this last week… and when all seemed lost and we were stressed out, we looked at each other, took a big spoonful of peanut butter, said a prayer over it and asked for the Lord to give us patience, and then indulged. Peanut butter always helps me feel better hahahaha.

Mom comment: So does pizza and General Conference...

2. This last week I had something called a finishing mission conference. President Johnson likes to give the elders and sisters a meeting and talk about life at home before we all arrive home. He Skyped me in from Lao and Elder Krebs (in our same MTC group) in from Myanmar. As we said hello to everyone via Skype he grinned and said, “Well, it looks like we have all the countries here today! Welcome Elders, let’s get started!” I love President Johnson. He is a remarkable man!

3. We visited the _____ family who had prepared some treats for us. When we walked in, the little girl said, “Elders! Elders! We made this treat just for you! We literally just picked the potatoes and the pumpkins from the garden and they are boiling right now!”… that sounded intriguing. Hahhahaha it turned out like this (I quite enjoyed it!)

4. I was talking to President Khonsavan and told him that when he came to America, I would take him and his wife boating. These were their responses:
Sister Phut: YES that sounds great I have never been boating!
President Khonsavan: I can’t go boating Elder! I am terrified of the alligators!!!”
I quickly reassured him that there were no alligators in Utah reservoirs. Hahahahahahaha


5. Elder Cheney and I are just too big for Asia. Even on the flights… our legs touch the seats. Darn.

6. I thought to take a picture of this woman who was very efficiently transporting a tree she was selling… all attached to her motorbike. #onlyinlao

7. So we are thinking of turning these fish tanks into the baptismal font when we get the church. President Johnson if you are reading this email, you can bet your bottom dollar Elder Cheney and I will gladly put the physical labor in and jackhammer that bad boy down until we can fix it up a little bit. It would look GREAT!!!

8. Elder Cheney ran so hard on the treadmill at the gym this week his knee hit the top of the treadmill (long legs hahahha) and it split right open hahahahaha. We are just too big for Lao.

9. We had one of our investigators (Brother ____) try to ride Elder Cheney’s bike. But as you can see in the picture, the seat goes up to his neck hahahahahahahah. Again, we are just too big for this country hahahahahaha.

Spiritual Thought
As Gary B. Sabin taught us so wonderfully in this last general conference, we need to “Follow the Creator, not the crowd.” So often I see signs of the newest technology, cars, entertainment, all competing for our attention. I never noticed it before my mission. I could sit down at my computer at BYU and adequately manage Facebook, twitter, Instagram, write an essay, chat with my friends, and snapchat my mom all at the same time. My goodness, I am surprised I even had time for my church calling. I am surprised my head didn’t explode. But I am certain that my head was on OVERLOAD. The Creator does not need to bang on our door loudly enough for us to hear him… he will wait until we give him the opportunity to be still and small. For he only needs a little space and time to get to us. The voice of the adversary and the things of the world are loudly calling our name from 1000 different directions. When left unchecked, these blessings of social media and other things we choose to spend our time with can wrap us into a web of disillusion and unnecessary busyness. My dear brothers and sisters, it is my prayer that we can simplify our lives and focus on the things that matter most. You don’t need me to tell you what they are, you already know deep within your hearts. You know deep down because somewhere in all of the noise, the Lord is silently waiting for you to let him in. We just need to take a long enough step back and spend some time alone with him. This is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Monday, April 3, 2017

Update: We got some money, we found an apartment, and we also applied for new passports. Things are going well! 

The Work:
When you and your companion are too tall for the door...

The members are doing great and are glad to have us back. Since we are not teaching English until our visas and new passports arrive, Elder Cheney and I spend our days visiting members, eating with them, chatting with friends, translating hymns into Lao, helping the branch presidents with various things, searching through the church storage for stuff, lots of dinner appointments, and studies. That is what our week has looked like. And that is what it is going to look like for the next couple weeks until we get to start the classes up and get the church completed. 

Searching for Lao hymn books in storage! 

The original hymn book - first one translated into Lao! Awesome! 

Visiting members with the coolest YSA 

Right now we have government permission to only be in the church and worship for 1 hour a week on Sunday. So we stick with that. It is so much fun to be with Elder and Sister Carter (I have missed them so much!). We don’t even have an iron yet in our apartment so we go to their house every morning to iron our shirts hahahaha. The work is going well. It is fun to get back into contact with investigators and encourage them to come to church. Sister L____ has been an investigator for almost 7 months now and when the church was back on the first Sunday, she was there. What faith! The same thing applies with Brother ຕ____. We can’t teach anyone yet though because we only have 1 hour to meet in the church, and the only place we can really talk about religion is in the church… so we have to hold tight for a little bit longer. That is ok, it is all in the Lord’s time! We love the Lord! Thank you for your prayers. The Lao members are coming back stronger than ever!

The Culture:
1. We were on the way to visit the northern members, and I sat down next to this lady on a truck, and a MONKEY jumped on her shoulder and landed in her lap. Now, for all of you Americans who have never seen wild monkeys… monkeys are not nice, fluffy creatures that everyone assumes them to be. They are vicious. They are mean. They have a complete survival mode switched on all the time. They will bite, steal your bag, eat your food, etc. So even though this baby monkey was looking all cute, I was freaking out… 7 missionaries in Thailand already had to get rabies shots because of these bad boys. I was like…“Only in Laos would a lady have a pet monkey.” She just fed it strawberries and had a little bib she wiped it’s mouth with. Classic. Don’t worry though Mom… no bite. It only growled at me ;)

The monkey pet

2. They love their electronics here in Laos. Like most of the world and surprisingly like most 3rd world countries, these people will live in little tin shacks but have big Samsung smartphones with their YouTube on it all day…. This is a strange thing to be sure!

Side of the road hammock = blessings 

3. The Lao people love their food 4 ways,
  • Extremely sour
  • Extremely bitter
  • Extremely salty
  • Extremely spicy
So it is quite rare to find something like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When you think about it, it doesn’t fall into any of those categories. They go for the extreme spices here, so they think a lot of the things we eat in America are weird because they are saturated with fat and salt… other than that we don’t have any of the other extremes. So to them, they like a wider variety of foods. Which to us as Americans freaks us out when you see them eating some things and you sit there and think, “Why in the world would anyone put that in their mouth?” It is because of the “extreme flavor” factor. The Lao people do not like sweet things. The sweetest they get is mangos and fruits. Not a lot of sugar.

Soup that everyone eats for breakfast here. Their version of oatmeal. 
They call it Khao piak. 

 I think these are called hoverboards, but they are super fun. We tried them out in the mall last week hahahahah! 

A favorite here in Vientiane among the elders - "Sputnik Burger"

The Funnies:
1. So far, 12 people have said my companion and I are twins. On the road to 100 before I finish the mish. Elder Cheney and I look nothing alike… but sometimes we Americans see two short Asians and say, “Oh you guys are siblings right?” When in reality they don’t know each other, and one is from Japan and the other China! Which is a HUGE difference by the way.  But that is how they see white people here. So because we wear the same thing, and we are both tall and skinny, we get “twins” a lot. I am flattered - I think Elder Cheney is a great guy hahahahaha.

2. We went to Brother ອອນເກ້ວ’s house to eat food again, and as tradition, Elder Cheney tried to break his own record of 14 bananas eaten (after a full meal). He only got to 12… but he vowed that next time he would reach his goal of 15 bananas. The only other missionary close was Elder Morley who got 8 bananas. Way to go Drew! (Elder Cheney).

Updated office of President Khonsavanh hahahha

3. President Johnson and some visitors from Hong Kong were in Vientiane this week, so we ate breakfast with them at their hotel. One of them encouraged me to try a local French pastry treat with blue cheese. I did so. I then challenged him to eat the Lao style breakfast and brought him some sticky rice, a sausage, and mashed up fish guts with peppers. He said he would have to pass on the fish guts with peppers after I explained the fish was sitting in a fermented jar under the ground for a year hahahahahahahahah I LOVE LAO FOOD (I really do… you just have to try it and get over the way it was made!)

Spiritual thought: 
This week I was reading in Mosiah, where King Mosiah is talking to his sons and then Alma comes into the story and then Alma the Younger comes into the story… but there is a common theme throughout all of Mosiah that I quite like. The common theme is expressed by the word, “remember.”  Mosiah tells it to his sons, that they should remember being rescued from bondage. Alma tells it to his son, that he should remember the words of his father. When the angel appears to the wicked sons of Mosiah, a key element of his chastisement comes from the word “remember.” It is my prayer that we can remember the patterns of history. That we can remember the words of our forefathers ever since the days of Adam. Remember that there is a God. There always has been and there always will be. Remember that when we keep the commandments, we will receive promised blessings already laid up in store for us. Remember the consequences of sin set ‘literally’ in stone. God has rules and as Nephi admonishes us, we need to “obey.” May we ponder in our hearts our ancestors, the people that came before us, the missionaries that taught us, that first time that we received a spiritual witness that the Book of Mormon was the word of God. Let us REMEMBER and “perish not” (Mosiah 4:30). Do not throw away your faith just because you feel like your faith has been shaken and you can’t face the challenge ahead of you. Let us stay true to the concept of an “unshaken faith” which comes as a promised blessing of simply remembering. Don’t give up on God. He has never given up on you, nor will he ever. I testify of his grace and mercy. His arms are extending towards us always. I am his representative, and I will boldly proclaim his everlasting gospel until the day I die. For thus has the Lord commanded me, and I must obey (2 Nephi 33:15). In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sunset over the Mekong River 

Love the Lord and Laugh, 
ອັບຣາຮາມ ສະມິດ-ດິກສ

Abraham Smith-Driggs  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Return to Lao

Monday, March 27, 2017

So.... WE'RE back and we are happy to be here! 

My companion, Elder Drew Cheney, and I hopped the border (legally of course) on Thursday last week.

We have a couple things we need to do: 
1: Find a place to live 
2: Get new passports because our old ones are filled up
3: Pray for inspiration

So you could say things are going pretty well! 

The Work:
The members are SUPER PUMPED that we are back! Everything is going well, and it was so fun to go to church on Sunday and see them all. This week was full of visiting random members, meeting with the branch presidents and branch mission leaders, reviewing the progress that has been made with the church, etc. The Lord blesses his people and is preparing them for big things here. This week the members brought 5 investigators to church... the members want them to get taught and are excited to have elders back in the area! 

Quick Funnies: 

1. Special S/O to Elder Rawlinson! I am going to miss you man. Udorn was real. Especially that last day when you fell asleep on the way back to the church (5 minute car ride... this man has a gift for sleeping at all times) hahahah love you Elder! 

2. Elder Cheney and I are both tall white people. Apparently that makes us look like twins. Since we've returned, we have had 7 people come up to us and ask us if we are twins. Truth! 

3. When we got onto our missionary portal to put in our key indicators, we got this message, "There are no church units assigned to your proselyting area. If this is incorrect, please contact your mission office." LOL I guess we went rogue.

4. President Johnson called us this week with this message: "Well Elders this is a special opportunity to blaze the trail up there in Laos, so go to town!" 

5. We translated my favorite hymn this week, "Have I Done Any Good," into Lao. Pretty sure the translation is awful, but we gave it our best shot. We are going to have the members go through it tomorrow hahaha!

6. The old grandmas of the branch came up and offered us food after church. What a treat! We got to eat some delicious ant eggs, year old fish sauce, and some mashed fish with sticky rice and grilled fish. I love Lao food! I was just laughing because I thought of myself 2 years ago. If I saw this food, NO WAY I was eating that. But now I do. Because I love the people. And the food is good too! 

7. Because President Khonsavan doesn't have an office in the church yet, he brings a printer down from his town and sets it up where all the cars are parked. He calls it "His office" hahahahahahahaha. 

The Lord is blessing us each day. We are seeing miracles left and right, up and down, north and south. The Lord lives and he loves us. 

Thank you all for your birthday wishes. This year was very special. A couple friends of mine threw me a party down in Udorn before I left! Thanks so much you guys! And I got to come to Lao on my birthday and spend some time studying the scriptures. What a treat! Thanks for all the birthday wishes today. Love you all - thanks for your prayers! 

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