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  

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