Speaking Thai, playing golf, and singing in the choir

Hello Family,

Things are going good here. Nothing has really changed here at the MTC. We wake up, learn the language, then pass out and get 5 hours of sleep. Fun times haha. The Language is coming along great here. I have learned how to give some good lessons and hold conversations in Thai, and I also have learned about half of the 80-character alphabet. The Thai alphabet is ridiculous! A ton of the characters make the same sound that 5 other letters do, just because the Thai did not want to lose ancient letters!

I assume things are going good with you guys, on account of your letters. And you can stop telling me about this crocodile pit of death in Thailand! I will stay away haha!

It has been kinda hectic here for a little bit. We had Richard G Scott come and talk to us. He is an AMAZING speaker and a super funny guy. I recorded his whole talk in my study journal. We also got to watch the Ogden Temple re-dedication, something I have never seen before, and got to watch Monson talk to us live. I wish you all were here!

I have still been singing in the choir. I sang at the September 16th devotional with Richard G Scott speaking. The devotional was broadcast to all the MTCs all over the world, and I got on camera 3 times! I wish you could somehow watch that devotional so you could see me singing. They passed out surveys at choir yesterday. They are picking 400 singers to sing in. General Conference! If I get in I’ll get to travel to Salt Lake and sing. You might see me on TV! I can only dream and hope at this point.

( Elder Ridings found out later in the day that he was chosen to sing!  Watch for him during General Conference)

I heard about Drew playing bare-footed in that tournament, sounds like he adapted to survive! Also the other day I learned you can get super nice, tailored suits for $60 in Thailand. If Drew or dad wants a new look, just send me your measurements!

On Wednesday I got to host new missionaries. That means I helped new missionaries like I was 5 weeks ago. It was hard to see these families crying and it reminded me of when you guys dropped me off.

I hope everyone is ok. Has dad bought any new toys for his “stress relief”? It won’t be long before you find some more vehicles in the driveway. Speaking of vehicles, Drew’s truck looks amazing! I bet he turns some heads when he drives now! Send me a photo of Sox, I have all of the dogs except for him. I miss that little ball of fur and anger! I haven’t petted a dog in forever.

We have been going crazy in the residence halls, every night is a party! I got a wig that I wear and it makes me look like a rock star. We also have fashioned golf clubs out of coat hangers, cardboard, and duck tape. We are having a tournament right now. We play it in the hallways and rooms of the residence hall. Can’t you tell we are bored? haha. Drew would be proud of our little golf games.

I have taken a ton of photos, so expect an avalanche of emails soon. I have seen some old friends, made new ones, written some short stories, and have been praying about you guys. I keep thinking about the day I come off that plane in Atlanta, in my stylish Thai suite and designer glasses haha, and see you guys again after 2 years of service. I am happy to be here, I am happy to serve, and I hope you all are happy too. Stay safe family, I love you all!

  • Elder Ridings
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I get to get the mail

I cannot believe it has almost been a month at the MTC. Things are basically the same here, no crazy stuff, just trying to understand Thai. I bet this language is all made up, and when we get to Thailand,they all will speak English! I still miss you guys. That box of photos made my entire week get a little brighter. All of my roommates love Lord of The Rings. They are super glad I have that iPod full of it! I saw Micheal T. again. He is such a chill guy. Saturday we got to do something called the TRC, which all missionaries do their third week. We meet with two sets of native Thai investigators, and have to teach them in Thai for 20 minutes. It was pretty intimidating! My companion and I soon got the hang of it though, and rocked the lessons! I got into the MTC Choir, and have been singing on Sundays during the devotionals. I had to fill out a survey so that I might get picked to sing at general conference! If that happens look for me on TV! At practice yesterday, we were practicing ” Be Still My Soul” for this Tuesday’s Devotional. It will be broadcast to all the MTCs around the world, and apparently someone very special is speaking. someone who we will “write in our journals about”. I am hoping it’s someone pretty BIG. So I have been called as a Thai District Leader! I get to conduct the meetings and tell everyone what to do. haha. I also get the mail. It takes me back to the days of sorting mail at West with Mrs. Linda. haha. I am very grateful for this calling. They even sent me a letter congratulating me. I attached it to this email. Our districts have become super close, and I have made a lot of lasting friends here. We play all sorts of sports like, 4-square, volleyball, and soccer together. The oldest Thai missionaries left today, so we are now the oldest, and only, Thai missionaries left. We get some new Thai’s sometime in October. I have made friends with some of the Chinese missionaries, including a Colombian by the name of Wheeler. I told Wheeler about Mr. Rocklein, and how his son is Columbian. I hope everyone from college and high school are doing well, Is Mrs. Carnes still rocking the attendance window? haha. I’ve been working out here. I use the pull-up bar, do push-ups, and curl my desk chair since I don’t have any dumbbells. All you can really do in your free time is workout. I miss knowing what is going on in the world, it’s like we are in North Korea! We are cut off from the world, we can see free America, but it’s on the other side of a tall fence. So has the world gone crazy yet? Haha I hope not! Send me some more pictures sometime, including ones of my Hummer! I miss my baby. I hope you all are doing fine, I miss Drew a lot. It is not fun being cut off from your bro. I wish him good luck in his golf. Last night I realized I will miss his graduation, and that made me pretty upset. He is the oldest child now. I hope he will bear it well. I know Drew is a thinker and a free spirit. He will have no trouble forging his own path. I miss dad too, and you too mom. I hope you can deal with only one child. It’s a lot less people to clean up after! haha. Thai is going well, I can hold a conversation and teach pretty well. Apparently you can soapbox preach in Thailand. I’m totally going to do that and draw a huge crowd of people!. The MTC takes volunteers to roam around campus and talk to missionaries. I have run into a lot of old friends from college, and I have run into Kyle about 5 times. I can’t call him Elder Miller. He will always be Kyle to me! Send me some more ties! Stay strong Mi Familia, I miss you guys and pray for you always! Love you guys!

-Elder Ridings

Week two in the MTC

Hello Dear Family!

So I’ve made it to week two already, can you believe that? It just feels like yesterday that I stepped onto the MTC curb and proceeded to cry myself to sleep that night haha. I feel like the veteran of some old war. This place is like EFY on steroids. Every day I’m learning the language, going to talks, and studying to be a good missionary. I’m ready to get out of here and get to Thailand! I only know how to preach in Thai, I don’t even know how to ask “where’s the bathroom?” but I’m ready to hop on that plane and get going! During some of our free time we have gone into Goggle maps and the street view of Thailand and it looks AMAZING. I want to vacation there when my Mission is over. Even though I am having a good time and have adjusted, I still can get sad and miss you guys, my home, my friends, and my old life. Sometimes iIwonder if I made the right decision. Then I attend a talk by someone like Bednar, and here a story from a senior missionary, and my motivation is recharged, and I feel ready to continue the work. I have a quote I keep in my journal, it keeps me focused, and keeps me going in the right direction. It is ” The only way out of this challenge – is through it”. I’ve committed myself. There’s no going back, no quitting, no dropping out. My mission is to serve in Thailand, and right now there is another living, breathing person waiting for me to knock on there door and change their life forever. It doesn’t matter how many people turn me away, how many doors get slammed in my face, or how much they may hate me. As long as I help that one person, these two years of my life will be worth it. Abinadi was cast into prison, and eventually executed for his teachings and beliefs. He didn’t get to baptize anyone, but he changed the heart of one man, Alma. So don’t worry family, I am more than ok out here, I just hope you guys can keep it together! Dad’s letter scared me! He got all existential on me, talking about football and such. When he gets existential, I know he’s having a hard time haha! Also, as soon as I can I will send a copy of my missionary tag for flat Davis. And thanks for the huge amount of Dear Elder letters! I love getting them and reading them, they make me so happy. I’ve been writing everything down in my journal, so that I can send it home once I run out of space. All of us Thai missionaries are super close now. Everyone loves me, I’m the local comedian haha. I do voice impressions and Monty Python quotes and everyone dies of laughter. It’s a daily occurrence now. Also thanks for the huge box of food, it came with 6 lbs of gummy bears! Iv’e been sharing them with everyone since there is no way I could eat them all in 8 weeks. I also hope the ward is doing good, I miss our old sacrament meetings! I can’t wait to come home and have a Thai conversation with Bro Simpson, we could have secret conversations and no one would know what we were talking about! Shout-out to Angela, Charlene, and Tina for those emails! It was super nice to see emails from non-family members haha. Tell Aunt Dee that I send my best wishes to Sam on his first week of college. I remember the stress and anxiety of it, but before long Sam will be an expert at it. And I heard Wayne did the ice bucket challenge! I wish I was still a seminary student with him and Amy so I could have helped dump that bucket! Also Dad, seriously? You bought a Razor AFTER I left home for good? Now that’s just mean. Here I am, having to worry about getting run over by elephants in the street, and you’re off buying new toys! When I get home I’m taking it for a spin around the neighborhood. Well that’s all for now folks. I love you guys and can’t wait to see you again. Stay strong, and don’t go too crazy!

-Elder Ridings

First email from Missionary Training Center

September 1, 2014

To my dear family,

My P-day is Mondays, so that’s when I can email you guys. I miss you guys so much! Everything is good here at the MTC. I still miss you guys but I am slowly getting used to it. Thai is a hard language, but I am slowly getting the hang of it. All the older Thai guys are so jealous I personally know Sister Hirschi; they all had a crush on her!

Also, you can send me Dear Elder letters any and every day. My district leader picks them up for me. I was feeling sad the other day, but those first letters I got from you guys picked me up and kept me going. I loved hearing from you, and Drew’s letter made me laugh so much! He is so descriptive in his letters.

Dad would be proud of me. It’s been four days and I have already taken 170 pictures. I want you to feel like you are here. I also met Michael Smith in the lunchroom. He was so happy to see me. I have also seen a ton of people from my BYU ward.

So my companions are awesome. I am part of a trio! I have two companions. Elder Chio (Choo) is Asian. He is from San Francisco California. And Elder Magera is an Army sergeant from New York. Elder Magera and I talk about military stuff all the time! He goes to West Point, and is into martial arts. Elder Daybell is right next door to me (the Air Force guy).

The Thai elders and sisters are awesome. I have been sad a few times. I like to compare how I feel to Hymn 97 in the Hymn Book. (Look it up on YouTube, sung by a guy choir.) It kinda feels like a part of me is missing. I remember the last thing I saw of you on Wednesday was dad looking at me sad through the crowd as I walked away. I do feel the Spirit here, so I am not as sad anymore. I was privileged to hear Elder Bednar speak last night which got me really excited for my mission. He talked about how there is someone out there waiting for us. I know someone is waiting for me in Thailand, and I’m going to find them. I’ve been writing in my journal every night, and when I fill it up, I’ll send it home for you to read. I’ll also work on getting a missionary tag sent home for Flat Davis.

We went on a walk around the temple yesterday, and I got some great photos. The days are long here. I wake up at six o’clock, get dressed, go to breakfast, class, lunch, class, dinner, four hours of study time, get back at 9:30, shower and hang out, journal writing, bed at 10:30. They say the days feel like weeks, and the weeks feel like days. I get to go to the gym every morning, and workout, play volleyball or something. Today we played 4-square, and had a lot of fun. I had a competition with some elders to see who could bike the longest on stationary bikes on the highest difficulty setting. I won!

The food here is just like the Cannon Center at BYU; it’s alright. The showers are pretty nasty. I’ve been wearing sandals in them, and the beds are metal bunk beds like prison. Haha. We don’t have much freetime; our days are planned out for us. I am ready to get out of here and get to Thailand! Every morning my companions and I teach an investigator in Thai. His name is Ideen. We are alright at the language, but are getting better. I said a prayer in Thai yesterday. Ideen is not actually an investigator. Haha. Before I go to Thailand, I should probably take an iPod with music.

Normally on our P-days, we would go to the temple in the morning, but Thailand has no temple. So instead of a temple session we get to go tour and look at historical Thai cultural sites. I’m so excited for that!

Don’t be too sad for me, because I am in a good place, surrounded by good people. No matter what comes my way I will survive, I’ve got to represent as the first Ridings missionary. I love you guys, and cannot wait to see you again. Be glad for me. It is natural for us all to be sad because of separation, but you guys are always in my thoughts and heart. I may lose myself in this work, but I will not lose sight of why I’m here. I love you Mom, Dad, and Drew. I also love you Sox, Lacy, Mojo, Cerus, and Dear Roxy, and the fishies. I love you all.

Elder Ridings