Sunday, June 11, 2017

My Joy is Full

Today, I feel joy! It has been almost 2 years since I have been a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My message today brothers and sisters will not be long. If I were going to try to put all of my feelings into words, it would not be possible. Sometimes the feelings that we have cannot be adequately described by a word processor.
Congratulations my dear friend!

Brother Bounma was baptized yesterday by his older brother, Elder Xayavong. What a fantastic last Sunday. It was very special for me. A good wind up because family baptizes family. LET’S GOOOOO!! We also had 13 investigators at church so we were spread thin (just we 2 elders) trying to teach as many as we could before they left. I love being a missionary hahaha.

I love these sweet members and will miss them with all my heart.

Saying goodbye to Brother Khampii

I want to encourage all youth everywhere around the world to prepare to serve a mission. It will change your life. No matter where you go, what color your name tag is, girl or boy, senior or younger, you will be a representative of Jesus Christ and have the blessing of teaching repentance and baptizing converts. You will invite everyone to come unto Christ! How great is your calling! Don't miss this opportunity. Don't miss it!

I will be indebted forever to my Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ. Christ is my creditor, and I will never be able to repay him. But he sets the terms. And all he asks of us is to follow him. I have tried my very best to do that these last two years. I wasn't the best inviter, or the best teacher, or the best in the language. But I gave it my all. 

I testify that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World. He loves us and wants us to repent. Conversion is not a step, it is a process. I will continue on that trajectory until the day I greet him face to face and bow before him and kiss his feet. I love him with all my heart. I wasn't a perfect missionary, but I sure learned how to love people, and in doing so learned how to love my God. I love missionary work because I get to testify of Him! I am his representative and his messenger. I know he lives. 

"Suffer the children to come unto me." 

Thank you brothers and sisters for your prayers, your support, and your sweet notes and emails over the past couple years. If you read this far into the blog - then props! And in the small chance my future wife will eventually stalk this blog and read every entry...thanks for reading honey, love ya ;)

Please know that I love you and I care about you all. I think of many of you frequently as I bike from place to place. Whether you are in the 4th Ward, friends from college, my dear extended family, or my mommy and daddy and cute little sisters. You mean the world to me. See you soon.

Love the Lord and Laugh.

Signing off for the last time,

Elder Abraham Smith-Driggs 

OF COURSE YOU ARE ALL WELCOME to come to my homecoming talk on Sunday, June 25, 9 a.m. (LDS Church building at 3103 E. Craig Drive, SLC, UT, 84109). Please bring everyone and your dog. Actually scratch that - no dogs. No pets allowed. Not like we Mormons are animal haters - our prophet, fun fact, has like 1000 show pigeons. In any case, no pets at the church;)  You are also welcome to come hang out at my house on Saturday, June 24th in the evening from 7-9 p.m. There will be a big party with Lao food and everything!  I'll post my address on my Facebook and Instagram accounts when I get home. My mom doesn't want me to post it here where the "whole world" will see it. Hahahahahahahaha.  Gotta love moms:)

Love the Lord and Laugh, 
ອັບຣາຮາມ ສະມິດ-ດິກສ

Abraham Smith-Driggs  

Monday, June 5, 2017

103 of 104

There are 104 weeks in a mission. I am on week 103. Oh boy. Today my message is: Senior Couples ROCK!

Elder and Sister Carter. 
For his children who are reading this blog, you truly do have one great parent. 
(Family joke.)

Elder and Sister Jensen

I have the privilege of working with many senior couples on my mission. For an extensive period, I have had the honor of working with Elder Richard Carter and Sister Carolyn Carter and Elder Nephi Jensen and Sister Ruby Jensen. They make Laos run - as far as DIC goes. All the water wells, bathrooms, wheelchairs, eye equipment, English classes . . . everything goes through them. A mission is not for the faint of heart, and these young missionaries (young in heart of course) give it their all every day. It isn’t easy to be a missionary in Laos. But it really gets tricky when you can’t speak the language and you have to meet with government leaders all day! So I want to acknowledge their hard work and their love for us - the elders. They will call occasionally and ask us how we are doing. We will have district meeting every Friday and enjoy each other’s company. Elder Carter will always start the meeting off with either, “It’s a great day in the kingdom!” Or… “Who else gets to do this brethren???” Or… “I’ve always said we have one good elder,” to which I retort, “Yes… we do have one good senior couple in Laos.” (Keep both of them guessing ;) I think both couples read this blog, so I want both the Carters and the Jensens to know how much I love you and how much I appreciate your service here in Laos. You train all of the missionaries here how to be not only great missionaries, but great people. God bless you both.

The Work: 
Thank you for your prayers for Ton and Sony! They both got baptized yesterday! I am so happy for them. Before we stepped into the font Sister Sony was like, “I have been dreaming of this all week!” It was a bittersweet moment for me because it will be the last time I will baptize someone on my mission. 

Baptism of Sister Sony and Brother Ton. The man next to me is Bunma, the younger brother of Elder Xayavong. Keep in your prayers please that he can be baptized next week. He is so close! He can make it!

Next week, we have a miracle story baptism. Brother Bunma, whom I may have talked about 9 months ago, has been an investigator for a while. 

Brother Bunma

His older brother is serving a mission in Thailand, and his name is Elder Xayavong. Brother Bunma has wanted to get baptized but has had trouble with work. When he came to the church last week, however, he teared up a little bit and said, “Elder. This is where I need to be. I need to be baptized as soon as possible.” That day we called Elder Xayavong on a cellphone to help teach his younger brother. This was the most ultimate Lao lesson ever, the older brother calling the younger brother and we elders just listening in and testifying with him, telling Brother Bunma we can help him to reach his goal. Not only did Bunma accept his brother’s invitation to be baptized, he also accepted an invitation to serve a mission after 1 year of being a member! Bunma turned to us after the phone call and said, “I should have joined the Church long ago.” He will be baptized next week. But the best part of the story? President Johnson is arranging for Elder Xayavong to fly down from his area in Thailand, come back to his home country, and baptize his little brother Bunma. I cannot wait for next Sunday!

The ZL's had to come up for visa stuff, and it was such a pleasure to learn from them this weekend! Glad that you had the opportunity to come up here elders. 
We love you and support you!

The Culture:
They use plastic bags for everything here. Meat? Plastic bag. Vegetables? Plastic bag. Fish? Plastic bag. It's raining and you don’t want to get your head wet? Plastic bag.  

Some interesting things of mission culture. When someone finishes their mission, there is a mission slang term that represents going home. They call it “dying.” And when you are a greenie, they say you are “born.” I’ve always thought it is really, really weird. Because that means your trainer is your “father” and just weird stuff like that. A lot of people get into it. I never have. So everyone will tell me: “Elder Smith-Driggs you are like totally dead dude!” Meanwhile I am sitting there thinking, “This terminology just makes me feel really sad and frankly quite morbid.” Hahahah but to everyone his own. Whatever!

The Funnies:

Sister Martell - don't worry. We are not getting malaria... we have killed over 400 mosquitos in the last 3 days and have invested in mosquito nets so adequately put up by the one and only Elder Cheney. So no need to worry! ;)

The Lao elders kind of work off the grid. No one really knows us… they have just heard stories. Funny things include, “Yeah we heard the Lao elders could watch any movie they want up there.” And “Dude, I heard the Lao elders can go swimming.” As well as, “Dude, the Lao elders have like no good food in lao.. they have to make everything at home. No ice cream man!” They can think what they want. Yeah, a little bit is different. To be fair, the last Fast and Furious 8 was way better in Lao. (That was a joke. I didn’t go to see it people. COME ON I AM AN OBEDIENT MISSIONARY.)

We found a GELATO shop.... what the heck? It was delicious. This pic is for you Eliza.

Because we don’t really get to see any of the new missionaries in the mission, and they don’t get to see us, last week we were setting up for the Elder Cook thing. I was in my suit but had my white name tag on (as usual). A sister came up to me and said ,“What is your name?” I told her “My name is Elder Smith-Driggs, and you?” She looked puzzled for a moment and replied, “I thought you worked for the Church or something. Maybe like a technical guy or something like that. Are you a missionary?” As I explained where I was serving it all made sense. It was a little funny though. I, just being Elder Smith-Driggs, love to talk to EVERYONE. But it was a little sad to meet all these new people and find out that even though they were new to me… most of them had been in the mission for about 9-12 months. Yikes hahaha. I really do work off the grid.  

I think I might have shared this before, but Bunma was reading the scriptures and he was really getting them. He came to us one day and said, “Elder, let me get this straight. You have faith, you repent of your sins, and the Lord will lead you to the promised land!” We were like, “Yeah Bunma, that is exactly right. Nice job!” He then replies very seriously: “Elder, I have faith, I am repenting, where is my land? Do I get a plot when I get baptized or do I have to sign something?” HAHAHAHHAHAHA Bless his heart. It was one of the cutest things I have ever heard from an investigator’s mouth. As we explained, he was a little embarrassed, but now we joke about it a lot. 

Spiritual thought: 
Before I finish my mission, I wanted to finish the Book of Mormon in my native language again. I am on track to finish, but as I was reading in Mormon I loved the words that he says: "Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing." The Book of Mormon's story is sad... and as we end the Book of Mormon, we see the destruction of millions of people because of their wickedness. The Book of Mormon's job is to warn us and to encourage us to keep the commandments. Our dear prophet, Thomas S. Monson, has encouraged us to read the Book of Mormon every day. Read it, ponder it, love it, and cherish it for the great gift that it is. Prophets from the beginning of the book since Lehi had hauled these giant heavy plates around for a long time just so that our generation could read them. Please brothers and sisters, don't mock the prophets. They are crying from their graves for us to read them and follow their teachings. I testify that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and it was indeed translated by his servant Joseph Smith by the power of God. They are for us to read, so let us take advantage of them. They have changed my life, and I know they will change yours. That is their job ;) 

Fight on my friends. It will be strange to send my last blog home next week. I thank you for your prayers. It has been a real journey. 

Staying strong to the end, signing off for the 103rd time (that is a lot of times hahahahahahaha just thinking about it).

Elder Abraham Smith-Driggs

Love the Lord and Laugh, 
ອັບຣາຮາມ ສະມິດ-ດິກສ

Abraham Smith-Driggs  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Baptism + Apostle = Epic Week

Easy Math.

Monday, May 29, 2017

My dear friends, it has been a while, hasn’t it! It flew by for me… but sorry to my dear fam that I didn’t email for a couple weeks. We have been pretty busy. I’ll tell you why!

The Work: 
The major things that happened these last couple weeks were - 

1. Elder Quentin L. Cook from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles came to visit Thailand. We got our visas in time and flew down to Bangkok to meet an apostle of the Lord. I have never had this opportunity as a missionary. I was able to shake his hand and feel of his sweet spirit. He spoke to our entire mission about how to better establish the Church and prepare Thailand (and Laos and Myanmar) to receive a temple. His testimony of the Savior was powerful. It strengthened my testimony in God’s chosen leaders of the Church and it helped strengthen my testimony that the Savior still lives. It is He who guides this church.

2. We had our first Baptism in Laos! The first man to be baptized in the new church building! His name is Brother Sea (ສີ). 

This is his story: 2 weeks ago we dropped by the church to measure some parameters for the baptismal font. When we entered the building a strange face greeted us with a smile. Slightly alarmed, we asked him who he was. He said he was the new security guard. He had just started working the day before. I asked him what the building was (it used to be a hotel, but I need to be careful in asking if it is a church, etc. So I was trying to see how much he knew about the Church’s plans). He answered and said, “It is a building that belongs to an international charitable foundation. They have meetings here.” I asked when the meetings were held (hoping he would know), and he responded, “Every Sunday at 10 am. In fact, tomorrow I will be attending.” I thanked him for the information and told him I might join him in the morning. Little did he know that we were missionaries for that international charitable foundation that would teach him about Jesus Christ. After the sacrament meeting, he came up to us and said, “I like this church a lot. Can I become a member?” Elder Cheney and I looked at each other and responded: “Why yes my dear friend, yes you can! Can we come teach you more tomorrow?” He responded, “Of course. I am here every day all day and am not doing anything except looking after the church.” Now brothers and sisters, to understand this miracle of Brother Sea more fully, you need to understand that the only place we can teach the gospel of Jesus Christ is AT THE CHURCH. The ONLY place. And this man LIVES there. Not only does he LIVE there but he is FREE ALL DAY. Not only is he free all day but he WANTS TO BE A MEMBER. Thinking about it just makes me giddy! Thanks God - this was a beautiful softball pitch to set up a long line of baptisms in the future for these wonderful saints in Laos. Keep ‘em coming! We have a family set up for this next week, and they are excited to start their journey as members of the Church. They have waited about 7 months for this moment. Please keep them in your prayers. Their names are Ton and Sony. Their children’s names are Mimi and First.

3. We had district conference last Sunday, which included 6 branches from around the eastern Thailand area. I got to see my friends from Udorn who were at the meeting. It was a fun time. A total of 87 Lao members crossed the border and made the 3 day trip a fantastic fun-filled event. 

It was good to be with the Saints of Thailand and Laos. I am reminded that we are all a big family. Also quick S/O to Sister Hart and Anne for making those delicious Oreo Cheesecakes for us. They are always divine ;)

4. Zone Conference. I had my last Zone Conference as a missionary this last week. It was bitter sweet for me. I love Zone Conferences. A good opportunity to see old friends, meet new ones, be spiritually fed by our BOSS mission president and his wife, among other things. Sister Johnson had asked me ever since I was a greenie to sing a solo at one of these conferences. I have been avoiding it for so long… but knowing that it was my last one, I asked her for one of her favorite songs and prepared it for her. I usually do OK in front of people speaking. That is usually not a big problem… but when you put me up there singing or playing a musical instrument I pee my pants a little bit. So thanks everyone for your prayer power! I sure used it when I sang hahahahahaa. You’re welcome Sister Johnson I love you!!! (Sister Johnson is President Johnson’s wife… let me just clarify that for you this was not for a random sister who wanted me to sing hahahaaha. This was for the mission president’s wife people - don’t get too excited hahahaha.)

The Culture: 

Everyone, I am running out of ideas here. We eat lots of rice. That’s all I got.

The Funnies:
1. The security guard at our house locks our bikes up every night… but he always puts the key in a different place. So when we are rushed to get out of the door and our bikes are locked, it is like a 5 minute scramble around the complex to find the stupid key. Classic missionary moment.

2. Classic missionary moment: When it is sunny outside so you leave your house without your rain jacket…. Then 15 minutes later the clouds are black and the rain starts coming down. Rain + street dirt = mud. Mud + white shirts + spinning back tire = Jackson Pollock style shirt. As much as I appreciate Jackson Pollock… I don’t appreciate him on the back of my white shirt.

3. As missionaries, we can’t eat with just 1 female. There needs be a male present too, sitting at the table. When we were eating some food with a member (Sister Pouiy), the male (Brother Sai) hadn’t come yet. So we took turns standing and eating and the other sat and ate hahahahaha. Sai showed up 15 minutes late. Pretty sure everyone else at the restaurant thought we were strange… one person stands and eats and the other sits… then some random guy shows up and they all sit down and eat. Yeah… Mormon missionaries are weird. We get it. No stress J

4. After the baptism happened, we forgot to unplug the font to drain it. 

Elder Cheney is a pretty long guy – longer than I am… so he reached down with his arm.. which turned into his chest… down to his torso just to get the plug unplugged. Thanks for the sacrifice for Baptism Elder Cheney - you are the man. He walked back into the sacrament room and people kept looking at him, “Wait he didn’t get baptized. Why is he all wet?”

5. Brother Sea couldn’t read the Book of Mormon because he is 60 years old, and his eyes don’t focus straight. So when we went to Thailand, we took the small B.O.M in Lao and made it BIG. Like REALLY BIG. (See picture.) We showed up and surprised him with it. His eyes lit up, and he started reading the first page slowly but surely hahahaha bless his heart.

6. While we were in Udorn, we had to use the Hart’s bikes (the single couple there). I totally called Sister Hart’s bike because it had the squishy seat. But she didn’t have a helmet. Luckily, I found this motorcycle helmet at the Elder’s house. I think I kind of rock it, don’t you? No shame. Female bike astronaut boy!

7. While we were visiting a member this week (Grandpa Bunluam), his granddaughter was playing with a toothbrush… she was sticking it on the floor and cleaning all the shoes with it. 

Elder Cheney and I were just sitting there thinking, “Please don’t put that in your mouth.” She didn’t…. yet. We started eating our food and talking, and we look over and this little one took the toothbrush and stuck it in her mouth. We were like, “No no no!” but it was too late. But it makes for a good story. 

Warning to all parents – never let your kids play with toothbrushes. They can be dangerous toys.

Quick S/O to the Browns. Sean Brown, Asha, Bishante and Ali’i – you will be missed! We love you so much. Can’t wait to see you in a couple weeks and congratulations Ali’i on your baptism. Make sure to send us lots of photos OK bud? We had a great time teaching you, and you were such a great investigator. Keep it up my friend! The Browns are some of the nicest people ever. They help out with everything. I mean literally EVERYTHING. It has been an honor to learn from them. See you in a couple months. Lao will be waiting for you!
Also S/O to Sister Anne who left to be a missionary in the TBM last week! Good luck Sister Khamvongsa!! We love you, and you will be the best missionary EVER! Calling out to all TBM missionaries. She is coming in at the end of the transfer so make sure to look out for her!

The Spiritual Thought: 
As I get closer and closer to finishing my time as a full-time missionary, many people have asked me, “Are you getting trunky?” My answer is always, “What is there to be trunky about? We are engaged in the most beautiful work of salvation. How can anything be more precious to me than helping souls come unto Christ?”  I think too often in this life we are presented with a future that always seems “better” . . . where the grass is greener on the other side, so to speak. But it is my hope that we can enjoy the present. Our Heavenly Father didn't put us on the earth just so we could 'wait' to go to spirit paradise. Nor did he give us trials so that we could 'wait' to have a better day than this. Happiness is a choice. So am I getting trunky? I don't think so. I am enjoying every day of my mission. Every day brings new experiences, what is there not to be excited about!? I am excited to go home as well. I think every missionary somewhere or sometime anticipates that day when they step off the plane... but for now, I am content. I am happy. That is because I choose to be. The gospel will keep going forth to every nation and every tongue. That is my calling, and it is an absolute honor to be part of God's Army. Endure to the end baby - let’s do this!!!!!! 
Love the Lord and Laugh, 
ອັບຣາຮາມ ສະມິດ-ດິກສ
Abraham Smith-Driggs