We are happy to report that your son, Elder James Davis Ridings arrived safely in Bangkok today. He is tired but in good spirits and is anxious to begin laboring in the Lord’s vineyard in Thailand. We are thrilled to have him as a missionary in the Thailand Bangkok Mission family. Your son will be oriented today by the Office Couple, Elder and Sister Meeker, the Mission Assistants and also Sister Senior and I. Then he will have his first experience street contacting in the area. He will have dinner in the evening at President and Sister Senior’s home. We have reserved a hotel room for him and his companion this evening.
Elder Ridings will receive his first assignment tomorrow at transfer meeting. Preparation day will be on Monday and he will be able to email you each week. I am sure he will have much to share regarding his experiences in Thailand, missionary activities and his first Sunday in his assigned area.
Today is it! The final day at the MTC. In just a few hours I will be leaving this place and traveling to the real mission field. Literally within hours I will be talking to real Thai people about Christ. I don’t feel ready for that! I am gonna need all the help I can get, but I know speaking the language to the real people will help me become skilled extremely fast. I am super excited to finally get out of the place I have been locked up for 2 months. It is gonna be super fun to travel and see the outside world again. A lot of stuff happened here. We taught our final lessons to the investigators, and it was an incredibly sad and heartfelt experience.
As the class days counted down, our teachers started to share their testimonies, and give their final pieces of advice to us. In the dorms we have been winding down, packing, and removing all the decorations from our room. Even though we are so ready to leave, it is sad to see how empty our once crowded rooms are. We went to In-Field Orientation, where they told us everything we need to do, and had a ton of fun activities for us to participate in. We learned a good amount about how we should approach people, and what exactly our mission means. There are 600 missionaries leaving today, going all around the world. Some of them are even going to Georgia, so watch out for them. The new Thais are very sad we are leaving, so we all signed each other’s journals, and shared our email addresses. Even though I only knew them for two weeks, I have become great friends with them. I know they will be amazing, and will serve the Lord with all their hearts.
We have given away all of our pass-downs to them. In the MTC we have a thing called “Pass-Downs” where objects of fun or value are passed down between generations of missionaries. They always have the signatures and missions of their former owners on them. I owned sever pass-downs. I had a seat cushion, a sword, the wigs, and few Nerf guns, and others I cannot name since they are sacred within the MTC walls. To receive a pass-down, you must be selected by the owner, and perform a trial to earn it. The new Thais had to perform the same trials I did, and needless to say; it was quite funny. So y’all remember my companion, Elder Chio? He has a habit of saying funny things at the wrong times, almost every few minutes. Because of this, we have been keeping a book of his quotes called: “ The Book of Chio”. Expect it to be a New-York Time’s best seller when we get home. Our last ever class was very emotional for everyone. We had all the teachers come and take tons of photos with us, and they even ate lunch with us. After all of that we had a testimony meeting, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. They all gave us their emails, and slowly left the campus. We will not see them again for two years. I am so grateful for their guidance and help in this MTC experience. Without them we would not be ready to serve in Thailand. I cannot wait for the reunion, and I cannot wait to meet these amazing people again.
Today I sent out my last packages, the rooms have been cleaned, the books packed, and now the last email is about to be sent. I am truly grateful for the time I have spent here. There have been good times, and there have been bad times. But through it all I am ready to serve. Two months down, 22 more to go. The real mission begins now. I may be scared to go, but no one gained anything by not taking the plunge, the step over the line, the leap of faith. No one gained a witness, or a testimony, by not experiencing. It is time to climb my mountain, and I am at the base.
Last night, one of our Thai Elders “Sagapolu” Got a ton of the Polynesian missionaries together, and performed the hakka for us since we are leaving. It was amazing to watch up close, and was an amazing thing for them to do for us.
Things are going good over here in boot camp. If you read the title, you know what it means. This is my last free Monday at the MTC. As of today, I have 7 days left. No more crowded cafeterias, no more 12 -hour classes, no more girls you aren’t allowed to chat it up with! I am super excited to finally get to Thailand, and super excited to speak to the Thai people. Honestly, I don’t feel prepared enough in the language. I thought I would know a lot more by now than I actually do! But I’m not too worried. I know I will pick it up in Thailand and be fluent in no time. I’m going to have a crazy accent when I get back. It will be some sort of mix between Southern and Thai! The lessons have been going good here.
We are teaching a new guy named “Mickey” as in the Disney character. For one of the lessons my friend, Elder Magera, came in as a church member named “Wat”. For some reason, I came up with the Idea for Wat to have no legs. So I pushed Magera in on a chair and our teacher started laughing! It was a great lesson, but on the way out, Wat hit a bump, and I spilled him out of his chair onto the floor! Whoops. Mickey accepted baptism, but we have to teach him all the lessons first. Remember Sang, our hardest investigator, well, we got her to finally accept baptism! It was a great experience. She had been having troubles with coffee and the word of wisdom, but I taught an amazing lesson and got her to promise to never drink again. We taught her for the last time on Friday. After we were done, our teacher told us about the real life Sang. In real life, Sang was actually a guy and didn’t join the church. I told our teacher that if we are in Sang’s area, I’m going to find him.
Thank you for all the packages, especially that harmonica! I have been practicing with it and have gotten pretty good. So I have made a huge list of things I want to do, and I continually add to it. One of the things I want to is learn to play the piano. I printed out some songs, and I practice on p-days. I will continue to do so in Thailand, and hopefully I can play when I get back!
We have been having an awesome time with the new Thais. Me and Sister Remington have been having some good days in the gym and playing 4-square. She went to BYU with me, and there are so many things that we both did together, that we had to
have been standing next to each other at some point. We are totally hanging out when we get back and everyone is going to have a big mission reunion. I have gotten a ton of emails from other Elders and Sisters, so I will be staying in touch with a lot of people.
So through certain means, circumstances, and deals, I acquired a mini fridge. We put it in the closet and store food and drinks in it. It is an awesome addition to the room, soI took a ton of pictures with it.
Another cool lesson we taught Mickey was about the Apostasy and Restoration. At a certain point in the lesson, I asked him to read the word “Apostasy,” and as soon as he did, I turned out the lights and asked him to read another word. He could not because it was too dark. I explained to him that this is what the Apostasy was like, “But God had a plan…” at that point I turned on a flashlight, so he could finally read the word. The word was “Restoration”. It was an awesome lesson if I do say so myself.
Yesterday we walked around the temple and took a ton of zone pictures. I got a ton of photos with every member of the zone. Such as Elder Darby (From Canada), Sister Remington (Also from Canada), Elder Slabaugh.
For my Birthday yesterday, I got a ton of cards, gifts, hugs, and people singing at me all day! I got a big letter signed by everyone. And a love letter signed by my companion, Elder Chio. The letter was actually a joke by Elder Slabaugh and Magera. Apparently, my reaction was priceless, and caused a huge laugh for everyone. For my Birthday back at the residence, everyone sang for me, and I passed out a ton of cake pops for everyone. We lit the candles, and I was able to put them out by clapping over them. No spit on these treats! Afterwords, We opened the apple cider aunt Dee sent me, and we are drank it while having a good time. This was one of my favorite birthdays ever.
This morning, we woke up at 5 am and saw off the Cantonese missionaries from our zone. They should be boarding their plane right now, 11 am. Soon that will be me. In 7 days I will be on a plane to Thailand, and I couldn’t be happier. I cannot wait to serve, and eventually return to my family. This may be my last email in America, and if you don’t hear back from me, don’t send a search party. I will be doing just find in the Kingdom of Thailand. I have a mountain to climb, and I just now reached its foot. My goal is the summit, and I have a two-year climb ahead of me.
Things are still going good around here. People are kinda rioting because BYU just had an internet blackout, so none of the computers work for emailing. I managed to find a working computer in one of the classrooms, so I’m using it right now. So last Monday night I got to teach my first ever lesson to a native Thai. It was pretty challenging! Her name was “Nok” and we talked to her through Skype. She talked very fast, and used many words I don’t know, but we were able to communicate. We taught her about prayer with faith, and it was a very good lesson. We got one of our oldest investigators “Arty” to finally receive baptism. It was a wonderful experience. Afterwards, our teacher showed us a picture of the real life Arty. The teachers act like investigators they taught, and Arty was one of them.
We had an ambassador from Thailand come and see our class! He was here on business, and heard that some teenagers were learning his language and going to Thailand for 2 years. He obviously didn’t believe this “MTC” place even existed, so he came an observed us. He was an awesome guy! He loves golf, and said if my bro is ever in Thailand, he will take him out onto some Thai courses for a few rounds of golf! He had so many titles, such as “Commander, Third Class, of The Exalted Order of The White Elephant”. How cool is that?! Other than that little excitement, nothing much has happened. We are ready to get out of this place and into Thailand. Nine weeks is too long! Last Wednesday we got about 12 new Thai missionaries! They are awesome, and I’ve already made friends with all of them. We have Sister Belnap, Elder Bunker, Elder Gonzalez, Sister Johansen, Elder Magill, Elder Sagapolu, Elder Darby, Sister Burbank, Elder Graham, Sister Remington, Elder Sun, and Elder Hudson. I wish them all luck with this crazy Thai language. Our teacher sister Stolworthy came back from her honeymoon, she is now Sister Butler. It is weird calling her another name now.
When we were cleaning a building, we got to see the secret tunnels that run between the buildings, I’ll send a photo of it. I love the package you sent me! I have been practicing with that sling you gave me and soon I will be able to slay Goliath! I practice in the hallway with an eraser, and everyone is worried of getting hit! Me and Elder Chio started teaching a new investigator named “Mickey.” He seems to be a pretty cool guy. This week Elder Chio also got his Patriarchal Blessing, it was an awesome experience to attend. I have been letting Chio teach more of the lessons, since he is having a hard time with the language, and I normally do 90% of the talking. I let him talk for an entire lesson to practice, and I’m pretty sure he converted the investigator right then and there. He will be a great missionary in Thailand. I have been practicing piano. Now that I’m older, I actually want to play the piano. I have two songs that I printed out that I want to be able to play when I get home. Wish me luck! 4-square has been going good. I love it and I hate it haha. It can be super fun, and super frustrating. I am one of the best players in the MTC now, so people always try to team up against me. I have one move that Elder Hall calls “The Luigi Spike” where I hit the ball with the side of my hand like a karate chop, while making Mario noises. It is un-block able, and I only use it when people try too hard, or purposely make the game less fun for others. I am the defender of the 4 squares!
Last night I ran around with my legs through the arms of a sweatshirt, soI looked like a crazy creature. You will see it in the photos… As you can probably tell, being at the MTC this long does stuff to you. I have lost all sense of dignity. haha. Stay strong family. It has already been 2 months — only 22 to go. This service will bless your lives. As Christ said: ” And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
I hope y’all are still surviving without me. Has everything technological broken yet? haha. So it was a pretty awesome week I just had. We taught two less active members and it was a challenge! We taught one guy who was good friends with the missionary who baptized him, but after about 6 months the missionary moved away, and ปิงปอง drank alcohol again. He felt so sad, and stopped going to church because he felt the members would not like him. We taught him that he can receive forgiveness for what he did and that the members would help, not hate, him. We got him to go to church again, and we promised to take him. We then taught another guy named ลูก. He had a bad back, and that prevented him from going to church. We taught him about praying often with faith for help, and gave him a blessing. We got him to promise that if he received help, he would attend church.
The best thing that happened though was with our investigator, Arty. He loves fish. That’s why me and Elder Chio used paper colored fish for our lesson with him. My friends Elder Magera and Slabaugh took it a step farther.
Magera’s grandmaovernighted him two goldfish! REAL, living goldfish! We gave them to Arty. I filmed and he freaked out! He had no idea what to say or how to react. We watched him from our building window walk out the front gate with the fish. He tried to give them to the security guard, another teacher, and a random jogger! He is stuck with the fishies now! Just ask Nic Frazier about them. I’m sure he has met them. I gave a baptismal interview to Arty in Thai, since I’m the District Leader. It was an awesome experience!
We have zone prayer every night. Where all the Thai’s, Hmong, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, and Cantonese missionaries come together. I gave the prayer last night. The other night I showed up in costume. Elder Frodsham got a leather jacket in the mail that was to small for him, so he gave it to me. I wore my glasses, wig, headband, the jacket, and my jeans. I looked like a biker!
So I’m sure by now everyone I know saw me singing at General Conference. It was an experience I will probably never get again. It was the kickoff of my mission. I was singing for anyone who watched, but most especially for Drew. Drew has his agency. He can chose whatever path he wants to walk. I just want him to look over the lyrics of that last song, “Ye Elders of Israel”. “Ye elders of Israel, come join now with me, and seek out the righteous, where’er they may be!” It was amazing seeing 20,000 people watch you sing, and knowing that 5 million are watching you from TV and internet. I’m a celebrity now! It was so good singing. It was a sight I will never again see.
You can watch it online here: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/watch/2014/10?lang=eng&vid=3821424105001 .You can see me lots of times. I’m in the middle section, 5th row, 3rd from the aisle on the right side of the middle choir section if you are looking at straight on at the choir. Just look for the blonde hair. I’m about 15 feet above the organ. If you watch the replay of the conference on the internet, you can see me at 3:03, 3:59 above the organ, 7:42 also above the organ, 10:35, 1:14:30, and finally 1:48:00. I just watched the back of the speakers heads, and I could even read the teleprompter. I want to sing again, but that was our one-hit wonder. I’ll sign autographs when I get back, haha. There were a ton of Officers from the Air Force and Army at the Conference, and they stood when the prophet entered. “Kings shall anoint him, and nations revere.” The prophet was the last speaker, when he said amen we sang. We gave the amen to the prophet’s prayer. Our last song ended with an “Amen”. I took a lot from this experience that I have written down. So if you all can’t tell, I’m having an awesome time! Send me some more videos like you did, I could almost FEEL myself petting Sox again. Stay strong with me gone and it will all work out. “Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.” Wherever I will go, I will go with all my heart.
Yesterday was Hump Day.Do you know what that means? I have already been here for a whole month, and I have one more month to go. The time has flown by! The language is still going good. The written language is ridiculous! So the Thais stole the Laotian system of writing a long time ago. The Laotians only have 26 letters. The Thais have 80, what happened? It takes me like 30 minutes to read a single verse of scripture, but I am slowly getting there.
Speaking of Thailand, they celebrated 50 years of the LDS church in Thailand yesterday. What a time to be going to Thailand. Also, what a time to be at the MTC! We have had 2 Apostles, M. Russell Ballard and Richard G. Scott, speak to us. We get to sing at the priesthood session of General Conference, and Elder Allen spoke to us yesterday and recognized all the Thai Elders! He spoke on how he just got back from Thailand and made all the Thai Missionaries stand up! I cheered and got on camera. That talk was meant for us to hear.
Things have still been going good here. I have done a ton of interviews and goal setting since Iam the District Leader. My throat is blown out from singing so much. Every day we have been practicing for our big debut at the Priesthood Session. We are singing some super loved songs, including a new on called the “Missionary Medley.” It will definitely make some people cry. As soon as the prophet is done speaking, we stand up and start singing. This will be one of the greatest moments of my mission. Hopefully our singing will inspire many people to join us as missionaries, and push people who are on the edge of serving a mission the right way.
After some coaching last week,Elder Chio and I gave our best lesson ever to our hardest investigator. Her name is Sang, she is 40, a mother, and comes from a Buddhist family. After teaching her a few times, she decided she wanted baptism, but would not receive it. She was scared of her family. After hearing this, Elder Chio and I planned our greatest lesson. We went in with no topic, no script, and no notes, and taught what we felt she needed to hear. I cannot recall what I said to her in that room, but I know I told her to pray with faith, and that God will give her an answer, and will help her choose the right. After we left our teacher told us she was impressed, and that it was our best lesson ever. The next day we taught Arty, our easiest investigator. He loves fish, so when we taught him about the Word of Wisdom we cut out a lot of paper fish, and colored them. Each fish represented a different substance that we should not use, and they would get caught by the Satan Shark! The most colorful fish represented a healthy Arty, and it would escape the shark. Arty loved it so much! We sat on the floor and played with the fish, and he kept them after the lesson. Some of our teachers are our investigators, so a teacher playing Arty actually took the fish home with him since he enjoyed it so much. All the other missionaries thought it was so creative, and congratulated us. The teacher’s name is Morgan Hunsaker, and he is roommates with Nic Frazier! What a small world. For our service project this week we got to carry beds up and down the floors of a remolded residence hall. It was hard work! Other than that not much has happened around here.
So harmonicas are becoming a thing around here, so maybe you could send me one? haha. I’ll leave you with a message from one of my best friends, Sam Loveland. Sam has been in the mission field of Brazil for a while now, so I consider him a veteran.
He said: “Elder Ridings, you are about to go to the front-lines of the battle for good and evil that is raging right now across the world. Your mission is to go into the midst of “Babylon” and rescue the elect of God, bringing them to the light of the gospel and leaving them firmly fixed to the iron rod. To do this you and your companion are going to pass through difficulties both physical and spiritual. Your task will be to live worthy of the Spirit so he can guide your actions. There will be many who say that obedience is not necessary, that there is another way, that will mistreat the sacred things of God and this Priesthood, and will succumb to temptation. They will be members. They will be missionaries. They will be the people around you. You have to be strong and remember who you are.” I will remember who I am and why I am serving. This isn’t my mission. It is the Lord’s. I love you family, stay strong while I’m gone. Before long, I’ll be coming back home again.