Monday, June 20, 2011

MyTime in Thailand Has Changed my Life

June 20, 2011

Dearest Family,

The past two years have passed by in a flash. Seriously. I cannot believe that it was over two years ago I found out that I would be coming to Thailand to serve as a missionary, speaking Thai and helping non-Christians come to know the Savior. To say it has been an honor would be an understatement. Of course, like all human experiences, it isn't without its trials, challenges, and heartaches, but in the end, it is a small price to pay to thank the Savior.

I feel that since I have come to Thailand, I have seen how we all are really the same. We all love our families. We all need some things that we just don't seem to find sometimes. And one of the best pieces of news is that families can be together forever. This isn't just for us as an immediate family but extends to my family in Thailand. Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Aunt, Uncle. That's what Thai is about - family. That's what the Gospel is about. Family. I love my family so much. And I will miss my Thai family so much. But this isn't the end of my association with Thailand. This is simply the beginning. I am eager to continue to speak, read and write Thai and interact with Thais for the rest of my life. There is some purpose that I don't understand as to why I was sent here to Thailand. But I do know that I will be forever grateful that I met all of the people that I have.

Sure there were days where we walked out in the heat and got nothing. But then there were the times where we saw the smile on Sister Naang's face when she said she feels that our Father in Heaven comes down and sits beside her as she prays. Or the time where Sister A said she was told to wait before going to the temple so that Chaang could be baptized. Or the time where you just felt so discouraged in Thonburi but Sister Cherry writes you a wonderful friendship book page.

Love is sacrifice. Love is forgiveness. Love is power. Whatever we do, we must do it in love. I love Thailand. Saying goodbye isn't the easiest thing, but at this time it is the right thing. I will do my best to finish out strong and to remember my purpose. And then it's onto a new phase of life. Centered on the Savior. And I am eager to always have the heart of a Thai. I will always be Thai in my heart.

So this week we saw Angelo and Poy. They are doing well but they aren't able to come to Church yet. It seems like there are all kinds of obstacles in the way. But they are doing fairly well.

This week we also went out to Ganthalag. The people out there are drying up pretty fast. The unfortunate thing is that one of them decided not to learn anymore because he feels like he can't keep the word of wisdom. Another couple decided to stop learning because of the wife. Some people are falling out but we are going to keep working with them.

We are also working with Sister Oy. She is Sister Grxsanna's daughter. No one has really ever taught her by herself. We asked her who God was and she didn't understand. We are going to work with her. It reminds me of the scripture about how Christ allowed the crowd to feel the wounds one by one. And that's what she needs. We all need to feel the Gospel one by one. That's how it's taught. One by one. Little by little. And that's how we will have to teach her. Sister Grxsanna sits there with her glasses and the scriptures that she has to hide from her husband and teaches us. She teaches by the Spirit. She teaches us that we are all children of God. She calls us "child" and we learn together with Brother Ice. And we have many experiences that we share together.

Yesterday at Church, Sister Grxsanna secretly gave me a hug. She looked so sad as we parted. I remember her baptism. She was so ready and so beautiful in her white gown. I will never forget how excited she was to be baptized.

And then Sanya and Bunmii are still just doing great as new members of the Church. They are helping their friends in Ganthalag to come to know the Gospel also.

Alrighty dearest family. I love you all to pieces. That's all I have for today. But please remember. The Gospel is true. My time in Thailand has changed my life and will continue to shape my life for the rest of my days. I love the Lord, our Father in Heaven, the Gospel and the power of the scriptures and the simplicity of the Gospel. Pray for charity, the greatest of all of God's gifts and we will see the power of the Lord in our lives.


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sister Joy

June 13, 2011

Dearest Family,

This week was a bit crazy. Most of our investigators aren't doing that well. We had to drop Rag. He just wasn't keeping commitments to come to Church. And Robbie seems to have disappeared off of the face of the planet. But we are continuing to work with Angelo who is doing pretty well. He's a referral machine. He's always inviting his friends to learn English. The story I really want to talk about this week though is Sister Joy.

Elder Senalai and I made an appointment to meet with Sister Pat's husband (she's a recent convert who the Sisters taught in Warin) and when we went to his house, we met Sister Joy who is not a relative but lives there so they can take care of her. Sister Joy was a strong member before being diagnosed with cancer. Now she can hardly walk, she is stuck at home and cannot attend Church. As we talked to her, she sat there eating a Thai dip and lettuce with sticky rice. Sick people's food. Or so she said. She's been endowed. Her body is frail and she probably weighs less than 100 pounds. But she has a firm belief in our Father in Heaven. Her brain is slowly being taken by the cancer but she refuses to give up. She continues to do her best. I thought of how she said she missed Church and the scriptures. She needs a blessing. She needs home teachers. She needs the sacrament. I often worry about the Thai members who are ill because they don't get visited very often.

I really will miss Thailand so much but it feels exciting to look forward to a change of pace and a chance to get a new, fresh perspective. My mission has been a very formative event. I think I have become more of a global citizen. And I have realized how the Gospel is so very precious in the lives of those who live it.

I am still really tired and I have been gaining a lot of weight it feels like but I am not sure exactly why although my appetite has increased. And I apparently, in the words of President Smith, do not look like an Ethiopian concentration camp victim anymore.

I know that the Gospel has the power to change our broken hearts. I know that as we come to realize the real power of grace, the real role of the Savior in our lives we won't have a desire to be who we were before. We all have concerns. And we all have doubts and problems but the Gospel helps us to face those things with courage and hope that the future will be better. I love Elder Senalai and seeing how the Gospel has helped him in his life. Thai people have to sacrifice a lot to join to the Church.

This past weekend they created a new District in Bangkok, which is the next step to a second stake in Bangkok. I know that the growth of the Church is helping the Thai people grow closer to our Father in Heaven. The Gospel gives us a power to face the challenges of the world with hope and love for all mankind. I love the Gospel and I know that one day we will understand the reason why things work out the way they do. I am eager to share the Gospel in the little time that is left. Remember to stay true to the truth and to love the Lord always.


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, June 6, 2011

Elder Senalai is Awesome!

June 6, 2011

Dearest Family,

So two years back seems like an eternity ago but it seems like yesterday a the same time. On Sunday, Sister Nida feed us and I saw some pictures on my Facebook. Sister Ging and I thought about how much my life has changed in the past two years. When I was in Roi Et, Sister Waruni said that it's amazing to think that two people from such different and far away places could come to know one another. Not only have I lost a lot of weight, I have gained an appreciation for Thai food, culture, and people. And I have learned how to speak Thai. I am going to miss speaking Thai with Thai people so much. I love going around everyday and speaking this crazy tonal language and joking around with them.

And I will miss my current companion. Oh wow, we get along so well it's awesome. The other day he said to me that when we talk to one another in the future we would use pronouns that you only use with close friends, otherwise it's not super polite. It's just like you wouldn't say "What's up?" to your grandmother. I will miss him a ton! I wish you could get a chance to meet the glorious Elder Senalai. I am so grateful that I was given such a fantastic last companion. We talk together all the time, I teach him English, he teaches me Thai, we laugh and he seems like he's getting a lot more confident as a missionary. He's so great! I am lucky to be with him.

Anyway, today we are in Galasin because Elder Senalai has to get a new ummm bad prachachon - citizen card. I couldn't remember the word in English. I am seriously going to speak English SO poorly. You can't make fun of me too much.

You asked about what you should bring to keep dry in all of the rain. Umbrellas do work well. You should have one. If it's really rainy, you just have to wait it out a bit. You should have seen it in Ubon this past week. It was FLOODING like crazy. It might be a good idea to bring a rain jacket. I don't think you know how wet you will get. Your shoes will get REALLY wet but they will dry out after a while.

Unfortunately, Robbie kind of fell off the face of the earth but then we had a lesson with him. He said at this time he is so busy but then he told us that he didn't sign a long term contract with the school in Amnaad Chaeron because he is thinking of joining the Church. Shocking? Yeah. He is still really hard to meet but we are going to keep trying our hardest. Robbie's Thai is difficult for me to understand. When first learning Thai, you might think tones are not that obvious but they are WAY obvious to me now. If I say a tone wrong it feels so weird. Isaan is like taking Thai and just changing all the tones and some words. Elder Senalai is from the Isaan so he speaks it sometimes.

Rag keeps saying he will come to Church and doesn't. I think we are going to set him aside for a bit just because he isn't really keeping that commitment. But it's also unclear if he's reading but we are going to go visit him today and let him know.

This week was great. I know the Gospel is true and our Father in Heaven loves us. Always remember that he will never forget you.


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, May 23, 2011

Another Great Week in Warin

May 23, 2011

Dearest Family,

So this week was another great week here in Warin. This last email I sent you we didn't really have any investigators but Elder Senalai and I have been working really hard and so we have some investigators that are learning pretty regularly now. From the Italian/ Thai 24 year old and his friend who he referred to us, Robbie and his Thai wife, Brother Rag, and a referral from a recent convert’s friend in Gantharag, things are going really well in our area. I am not sure that we will see anyone baptized before I leave Ubon but I think that the area is becoming better and better.

It feels so weird to think that tomorrow is my last Zone Conference as a missionary. It seems like yesterday it was my first Zone Conference in Bangkhen where the air conditioner broke. (Yes, it was just as hot as you imagine.) My mission has gone by quickly. But I look back and think of all the wonderful things that I have seen and all the wonderful friends that I have made. My life without Thailand would be so different. Thailand is an amazing place. I will miss speaking Thai everyday. So. Much. And I will miss all of my Thai friends that I have made here. That's why I guess I will just have to find a way to come back to Thailand.

Anyway, this week was one of those really fast weeks. It was full of lots of great happenings. A quick update on our investigators.

Rag - He got off of alcohol again but he is still struggling. Please. Don't ever drink. Getting addicted to alcohol has done nothing but made his life miserable. He drinks because he lost his daughter but when we fall into alcoholism, we lose hope and lose sight of who we really are. This is a very sad situation. Anyway, he's doing better but I am not sure how long it will take him to kick the habit.

Robbie and his wife - Robbie is a very smart man. He knows a lot about the Bible. He brought up a concern about how the prophet is the earthly leader of the Church rather than apostles. We are working with him to help him understand that the Book of Mormon is a powerful tool for his life. He talked about the changes that he has seen in his life since he has been reading the Book of Mormon but he still doesn't quite connect them as an answer from God. His wife also reads and enjoys the changes she has been seeing but again still doesn't quite connect the dots. This week he didn't go to Church but we will keep working with him.

Gantharag folks - Brother Had is just full of referrals. This last week two other people showed up at Church who are friends of our recent converts/their friends. They are pretty interested. Gantharag is far away but it is well worth the time to go out there and teach about 4 - 5 different interested parties. It is really great to see how the Gospel changed Brother Sanya and how he wants to go out and share it with all of his friends. I love that about the Gospel, the power to change and the power to be something better and more than we are right now.

This week was really great. I feel pretty good. Sure I am tired everyday - that's probably from just being a missionary for so long but I love serving here in Thailand. I consider it such a pleasure to come and work with these people and help them come to know our Savior. When we know who we are, we won't have a desire to live short of our potential. Remember the most simple words: “I am a Child of God.” We must always remember who we are and where we come from. Then and only then, will we have happiness that we can't obtain from anything else. I know the Gospel has power to change people's lives in a profound way.

I love you all and pray for you daily. Do the things that are right and remember to love and forgive one another.


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, May 16, 2011

A New Thai Companion, Elder Senalai

May 16, 2011

Dearest Family,

Let me put the past week into a few words: Hot, Lots of Inviting, A new Thai companion, A South Africa, white, Buddhist/Christian investigator who came to Church. This week was one of the most fun weeks of my mission in some ways.

I got the amazing Elder Senalai from Kalasin for my companion! Elder Senalai is super Christ-like, funny and very relaxed. He is 25 years old, a college graduate (humanities-law) and has served as an Elder's quorum president. He's such a great guy! He just came from Chiang Mai where they had quite a few investigators. We are going through a finding phase here in Warin but we are working hard.

So this week was hot! Elder Harris and I went inviting in Warin one morning and I seriously thought that my body was going to shrivel into a small ball. It was so hot that when we got to the Church for study, I was sopping wet. (It was a Songraan of sweat shall we say. It's like Mother Nature was throwing buckets of heat on us. Although this time I would have loved to have someone throw a bucket of water on me.)

About two weeks ago, Elder Gudmundsen and I were out by Brother Rag's house to go to visit him. At the time he wasn't there because he went to go see someone who was sick in the hospital. But while we were waiting, we ran into a faraang. Usually when we run into a foreigner in Thailand we almost always get a negative response. I remember in Chiang Mai I was told to go back home, in Roi Et I was told to leave Thai people alone. But this man was different. As he sat in this typical Thai house with a petite Thai woman named Kay (chicken) and her son and Kay's father and mother, I couldn't help but notice how out of place he looked. Imagine a foreigner over six feet tall sitting in a one room, small Thai shack. We said hello to him hesitatingly. We were greeted by a very friendly hello and a lengthy discussion ensued.

His name is Robbie. A German by birth, he has spent most of his life in South Africa. He has many degrees including a PHD in Industrial Engineering. He converted to Buddhism about 30 years ago. He knew of the Mormons very well. He called us the only true Christians that he knew of. Before converting to Buddhism, he was a member of the Church of South African clergy. He knows the Bible and has read it countless times. He converted to a very simple kind of Buddhism. His belief is that Christ traveled to India, learned of Buddhism and then went back to Israel to teach Buddhism and for that he was killed. He believes that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He was fascinated by what we were doing in Thailand and talked about his experience with Mormons a little bit. As we sat there and talked with him, he expressed how he believed that the Lord Buddha (as he called him) taught to deny all unwholesomeness. I immediately thought of the last chapter in the Book of Mormon where Moroni calls upon us to deny ourselves of all ungodliness and come unto Christ. At that time we gave him Elder Gudmundsen's pocket Book of Mormon and then we asked him to pray about it.

This last week, we went to visit him on Saturday night with Elder Senalai. The conversation that ensued was fascinating. This man is extremely intelligent and educated and thought he had found the path that he desired but he told us how he feels so lost and how he feels that the Book of Mormon might be the answer for him. He started to pray again and he had a very intense spiritual experience as we prayed with him at the end of our lesson. He talked of meeting with us as a journey. When I asked if he would go to Church with us, he was simply delighted. He's reading the Book of Mormon and he has lots of questions but he is willing to learn. We are going to see him again this Wednesday and I am excited.

Unfortunately, Rag started drinking alcohol again. We are going to keep working with him to help him get back on the path that he should be on. I feel sad that this happened to him but I know that he will recover. Eventually.

So anyway, all is well. And being with a Thai companion is awesome. I love Thailand and I love this opportunity to serve the Thai people.

Love you all lots,

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, May 2, 2011

LDS Chapel in Ubon Ratchatani

Brother Sanya and Sister Bunmii Were Baptized Yesterday

May 2, 2011

Hello All,

This week I am not quite as tired. Although, I do feel really fat today! Yesterday a member made dinner for all of us missionaries - to say it was incredible would be an understatement. She made waterfall pork with sticky rice and something called tom kha kai - a chicken/coconut milk soup that was amazing. It actually was her birthday also, so we had cake - I had the bai toey cake. Bai toey is a very unique Thai flavor that they use to make a green custard that I love. Whenever I think of Thailand, I will think of the taste of bai toey, the sweat on my brow everyday, the smell of humidity and the heat of the sun. There are many emotions associated with Thailand. Flavors, smells, feelings, all wrapped into a giant ball that is Thailand.

This past week there were some really good things that happened. Brother Sanya and Sister Bunmii were baptized. They are referrals from President Had. They are a cute little couple - he gave up alcohol in a short period of time and it really helped their family a lot. They came to Church from a place that is about 60 kilos away in the nearby province of Srisaket (which has a Church but Ubon is closer for them and President Had is a member here). The service yesterday was a simple one. President Had baptized this cute family who aren't very educated but have pure spirits and hearts. They speak with Father in Heaven in a simple, heartfelt, grateful and loving way.

There were a lot of investigators at Church yesterday including another cute family that the Sisters are teaching who are both named Leg (small). The other Elders had a hilarious investigator named Nid (little bit) who only speaks to us in Isaan and is sassy. That's the best way of putting it - sassy.

So what else happened this week? There were funny moments from dogs that seem to always chase my companion but leave me alone, to a video of me screaming because the members put a bug on my clothes. There was being exhausted walking around Bangkok after eating a Japanese buffet where Thai people showed that they can eat a lot of tempura shrimp. This week was another grand old week in the happiest place on Earth (no... not Disneyland. Please. Disneyland is in English. This is in Thai!).

We did exchanges in Srisaket where we walked and invited all day, I was exhausted! The next morning I woke up with a sore throat and a bad headache. But then it was back to Ubon on a cramped and really hot bus where I taught district meeting and then headed to Yasothon. It was a good time in Yaso but it was very tiring.

Unfortunately, rain fall and false appointments were on the agenda for the two days in Yasothon. But we taught an awesome investigator named Chuuchaad who refers to himself as "Brother.” Elder Anderson and Elder Grover are good guys. They are hard workers and willing to do their best. I love working with both of them.

Yasothon is a pretty good place. It has a very country feel. People there don't really speak Thai very well. They usually speak Isaan in their day to day conversations. Isaan has a completely different rhythm to it. I don't know how to describe it. The tones are all over the place. Thai is very organized in its use of tones. Isaan is pretty much anything goes.

After returning to Warin we got a chance to see Rag who is doing very well! He is getting off of alcohol and is working to get off of cigarettes. His countenance has become brighter and he is smiling more. That's a common indicator of conversion - the physical change. I remember as we continued to teach Aa and Naang, there was almost a physical change in them. I remember how Chaang's personality changed. And I remember how countless other people changed their lives for the better as they embraced the Gospel. Embracing the Gospel is putting off the natural man. Anyone can be the natural man. The question that we are asked by Christ is "Will you come up to the higher plane?" Think of Nicodemus for a moment. He asked the question that all mankind wonders "How can I come closer to the Divine?" Christ responded "You must be born again." Christ calls us to be born again, looking beyond the physical into the spiritual realm. Christ calls upon us all to abandon the natural man and have his image in our countenance.

I love the Lord and I love being a missionary. It’s weird to think it’s coming to a close but I am so grateful for this opportunity. I hope we can all come unto Christ and และ​ปฏิเสธ​ตน​จาก​ความ​ไม่​เป็น​เหมือน​พระผู้เป็นเจ้า​ทุก​อย่าง.

Love you all so much. Praying for you,

Elder Jacob Newman