Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thailand Second Week

Sawat Dee Family! (If I knew how to write in Thai on this computer, I totally would do it but I am not sure how so I probably won't spend time trying to figure that out! )

So they moved our P-day a day earlier because tomorrow we will be having Zone Conference in Bangkhen- which is about an hour away from here by taxi. That's where Stop's ward is. It's the newest Church building in Thailand. It's a very nice building. They are built for functionality and beauty. There is something so Thai about them even though they are pretty much the typical design that we see in the states. The chapels are pretty small but very comfortable.

Thailand is of course, as wonderful as ever! This week has been busy and productive but it's been another good week as the adventure of understanding, communicating and effectively teaching continues.

First, your questions:

I guess we only get mail when we have transfers, “moves.” That is about every six weeks then. This time it will be six weeks from now because we came a week earlier. At moves meeting itself though, I don't know that everyone comes. That will also be taking place at the Bangkhen chapel. That seems to be a hopping place here in Thailand. I am not exactly sure why it's used so much. Considering my extensive (read zilch, zero) knowledge of Bangkok geography it could possibly be a geographical or transportation reason.

“Moves” day follows our P-Day (Wednesday) and are about six weeks apart.

IF you send packages DO NOT send them anyway but U.S. Postal Service either regular Air Mail or Priority Mail. Otherwise, there are HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE fees that the office passes on to us. Use only the U.S. Postal Service. Do not use U.S. Postal Service Express Mail, DHL: UPS, or Fed Ex. Otherwise, we will suffer the wrath of really high fees. It’s several hundred baht for the fees, which doesn't sound like a lot, but trust me.... it adds up. I am still working to fully figure out prices. It's about 50 baht for a really nice meal and about 30 for a really good but nothing fancy kind of meal. Water is about 20 baht for a liter.

We have an ATM account that we withdraw money from once a month that is the money we get for food and for everything else we will need in the month. I can't remember exactly how much it is in baht but we get about $150 per month which is PLENTY to cover our needs.

We have a cell phone that we use to contact everyone. That was something that they started about one year ago.

Teaching English is fun! But, I am not sure how to do it really....Nicole- do you have any suggestions for teaching and keeping it fun? I know that sounds so broad but what suggestions would you give? It really is so basic things. Last week we learned about pronouns. It's at the Church and we hand out fliers a lot about it and also have signs that advertize for it.

There's quite a bit of pollution and there's quite a bit of smoke but you don't notice it too much when you are focused on the wonder of Thailand. Of course that sounds naive, but in the words of the Thais it's jing! The pollution and everything and cigarette smoke are there but really I notice the smell of Thai cooking and spices more than anything. Seriously the best smell ever!

We haven't eaten at members’ or investigators’ homes yet and we only eat rarely in our apartment. Today in fact was the first day that we did. But at Church every Sunday they have a potluck that's always delicious. They always have a curry, sticky rice (in the words of Elise, manna!), and other excellent dishes. This last week they had papaya salad. I only got a little bit but it was amazing. The spice level doesn't really bother me too much. You just have to be reasonable. Of course you can get things with like 10 pricks but you need to start out slowly.

My bicycle is a Trek. It's great. I got a good helmet too. And I got a steal of a deal for this bike. I got everything I needed for it for under 12,000 baht! That's like unheard of. It's perfect though!

We ride taxis all over the place to get to appointments and everything. They only cost at most 100 baht and at least 35. This money comes from house money that we use for costs for the house.

So let's talk about what we did this week. Let's see. Lots of teaching. Lots of searching for people. It's sometimes hard to find people who are interested but it's really nice to see when people actually do express interest. A common response that we get when we talk about being from sadsanaa khrid is "All religions teach us to be good". The Thais are so open and loving about all religion! They really love all people no matter what they believe. We try to talk to everyone and share a short message and see if they have interest. But most of our time is spent teaching.

This week we focused on a few of our investigators. Here's the lowdown on a few of them.

1. Prem (p pronounced like the p in spud) is one that we thought was progressing-ish. But we ended up having to stop teaching him because he missed Church again. He has never been to Church before. Sadly he's not quite ready to commit to Church. He was a great guy but has a lot going on in his life right now.

2. Bawg (poor Rominazation of his name)- He's a great guy who's really funny. He attends Church every week and loves the visits from the missionaries. We are working to further his faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World. He's doing well and is pressing forward gradually.

3. Eg- This investigator is one that we thought we weren't going to focus on but ended up shifting some of our energy to him. Elder Shill said that he wasn't ready to get baptized because he did not have parental support (he's in his 20s and still relies on his parents iun some day) and he's been learning with the missionaries for a long time. But this last week he called us up and said that he is ready to get ready to be baptized. So we have been working with him and will continue to do so. It's funny, when I hear him speak, I can understand him almost perfectly but then when other Thais speak... My understanding is a little less clear.

4. Mongkhawn and his wife Gey- This family we have only met once but they have been praying daily as a family and will be coming to Church probably this next Sunday! They seem very interested and seem to be doing well. We will be teaching them sometime this week.

We also have been working with less actives and recent converts. One of the recent converts might be seriously the most naarag (adorable) people ever! He blessed the sacrament for the first time this last week and he was nervous but he said the prayer so nice and slow. It was so touching because he probably didn't know it but it helped me because I could understand him so much better when he said it that slowly! He's nervous about talking in Church but I know that he will do a great job when they call on him- his name is Bro. Chillio. We will be teaching him again tonight.

The strength of the members here is so impressive to me. They have to go through a lot but they remain so faithful and true. This last week we spent some time helping the former bishop clean up his yard. It was nice to get to know some of the members who came to help. And there was also very delicious food. When the Thais eat, they eat a LOT of courses. I was so stuffed, I couldn't even believe it. Thai food is just so joy inducing. And rice. Seriously. It's like heaven.

Being in Thailand has made me really appreciate several things. Like home teaching. It was so nice to know that Ray (give him my regards by the way) was so close and so willing to help out. Here in Thailand the program struggles somewhat because of the length and distance that members live away from each other.

But Church has been a great experience. I had an experience that I would like to share that happened on Sunday. Church is so great in Thailand, really. First of all, we had had a bit of a stressful morning because some of our investigators didn't show up and we wanted to make sure they were there. But then as I sat next to Eg and Champ (a recent convert) the meeting was so nice. Most everyone is a convert with an amazing story. When we took the sacrament, I took time to think about how everyone in there were my brothers and sisters. It was a very unique and singular experience. Just because we look so different, doesn't mean we are different deep inside of us. We all have the same spiritual hunger and wants and needs along with a desire to be loved. As I listened to the excellent talks, which I could understand much better than last week, I loved the personal testimonies of those who are converted. The Thais have such strong faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

And Elder Shill is still fantastic. We really do work SO well together. He's a blessing to have right now! He will be leaving Thailand in November so we will probably be comps until then and I am so glad. He works so hard and really is so skillful at all he does. This week he got a little sick on Sunday and he still translated for the member of the Stake Presidency who can't speak Thai. He did a wonderful job! I wish I could have helped more however translation in Thai is not my strong spot as of now. I can understand a lot but to put it into English is hard. That's one thing that I have noticed about Thai that has been a blessing from the beginning. I don't really have to think in English about it. I can just produce/understand without translation. Serious blessing from above. But anyway... Elder Shill is great! Oh phew! For a minute it started typing in Thai, now that was a STRESS!

But seriously, Thailand is so great. I love teaching about the simple truths of the Gospel. That God lives, that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that we can be with our families forever. The Thai members are so willing to help their friends come unto Christ. I love serving them and everyday I wake up and thank my Father in Heaven that I can be here in Thailand to help them. Everyday is a new adventure where we seek out those who are prepared to listen to our message. I know I sound so cheesy and corny but seriously, I never thought I could love a people like I do the Thais. They love to smile, they are so kind and they are so PATIENT with us as we struggle to learn their language. They have such kindness about them and such desire to be good people.

Even when the days get hot and the weather's humid, it's still just such a thrill to be here! And now my time is about up. But remember พระคริสต lives and that he loves us! I am so grateful to be in Thailand to be able to help God's children.

And all is well! (With rice everyday how could everything NOT be well!)


Elder Jacob Newman

p.s.- Give my love to all those within the "sound" of this email. I love them all and thank them for their prayers and support. Tell them that the work is going well and that I love Thailand to pieces (in case it wasn't obvious already)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wow. Thailand. Really?

Dear Family,


Wow. Thailand. To say it's amazing would be an understatement. Words cannot express my love for it already!

That was my first word when I stepped off the plane, after jumping up and down in my seat for the last half of an hour of the descent. We were finally there, it almost felt surreal. In fact, it did feel surreal. The flight was long. We were tired and ready for bed but more excited than ever. The second we stepped off the plane, we heard announcements over the intercom in Thai and realized that A. that was indeed Thai and that B. We only understood the last two words of it. But we were finally there!

We were met at the airport by the mission president, his wife, and the APs and the office elders. We stepped out after we withdrew our baht and we went to the car outside after we packed an overnight bag. My first words when I stepped outside were something along the lines of "it's hot but it's not as bad as I thought it would be" So let's get on to your questions and I will tell you all about everything.

I have been doing great. A bit tired since the schedule takes a little bit of getting used to but I have been doing great! The food is amazing and I haven't gotten sick at all yet, let's keep our fingers crossed on that one. Seriously, the Thai food in America looks like nothing now. I have eaten some amazing stuff that really makes the American Thai look no good! Spicy? Yes. Delicious? Very much so! Yesterday I ate papaya salad that was pretty spicy but it was SO good I can't even begin to express how good it was. We walk almost everyplace and those places that are too far we take taxis. We ride our bikes occasionally which isn't that bad. But seriously, it's so great! I have lost quite a bit of weight but it's good.

And the language. Oh the language. Everyone here says l's rather than r's, speaks really quickly, and uses a lot of vocabulary that I have no idea what it means. But through lots of prayers of you and me, I have been able to communicate really well. My comprehension is getting better everyday. I am a huge fan of Thai. It's just so fun to listen and maybe get about 60% of what people are saying sometimes and then other times be surprised when I understand perfectly. It's hard, yes but it's really a testament to the fact that God has helped me a lot with the comprehension. And the teaching is going really well actually. I try really hard to do my best to teach the principles. Despite the language barrier, I am making strides everyday. I can say almost everything that I want to say, I just want to be able to express myself a little clearer.

Yesterday we had our fourth time teaching together. Elder Shill, my awesome new companion and I, were teaching a family. The dad was a taxi driver and he had a wife and two children one of which was home. It was such a tender experience as we explained prayer and how to talk to God. We then decided to kneel and pray right there with them. It was really quite touching and it made the whole day so great! The mom said she really loved it and I loved it too! So hopefully we can help them understand more. They also said they will be coming to Church this Sunday! And pray as a family! What a joy!

I am in an area of Bangkok called Bangapii. There are lots of people, lots of nice people. That's the BEST part about Thailand. The people are so nice, they love to smile and they love the fact that we foreigners are trying to speak Thai. It's really amazing. The Thai people are so patient and loving. My love for them has just increased exponentially everyday. The ward has about 60-80 active members. There are two elders (me and Elder Shill) and three sisters in our area. That's a bit unusual but one of the sisters will be finishing up her mission in a couple of weeks. She was companions with one who finished this week I believe. But now there is a threesome. The ward has some really awesome members who have been so helpful with us in our teaching. Most of the members are newer converts but there are a few who have been members for a really long time. The first Sunday in Church was a bit stressful because I couldn't understand much but it was really cool. They have a keyboard that plays the songs for them since no one can play the piano. They also had me bear my testimony. Every member was really cordial and said that I did very well. I was also called on in Gospel Essentials to talk about the physical and temporal blessings of tithing (luckily I understood the question perfectly otherwise that could have been hair rubbing!) Again, testimony of the power of prayer and lots of hard work.

Elder Shill is the best trainer I ever could have asked for. He's from Mesa Arizona and is just the best! He's so patient, loving, caring, and funny. We get along really well and we teach really well together. He has almost been out for two years so he will finish up in this area in about three months! So I think we will probably be together for the next couple of moves meetings. He's an outstanding missionary who has taught me a lot and has been super patient with the language. It's just awesome!

President Smith seems like my kind of mission president. He did interview us all briefly and it was really great. He just briefly talked to us about the things that we should expect. The day we got into Bangkok we were so tired. And it was so surreal. But we ate really well. We had some of the best fruit ever! Mother, I am sure you would have loved the somelo (I think that's what it's called) that we had. It was just the best! We also had a pear/apple fruit that was to die for. At night we ate Thai food that was nice and mild but all in all SUPER delicious! It was crazy. We were so tired so we got to bed early and then the morning after we had moves meeting.

I met Stop at moves meeting in Bangkhen since that's his ward house. It was way exciting! He's way nice and always helps out the missionaries. We got some pictures with him that I hope you got to see them on Facebook. Moves meeting, all the missionaries in Thailand came to because the President had to talk about some issues but it was great. I got to see all of our older Thais and see how they were doing. They all are doing great. Then I got to see where all of my district was going. It was crazy. Sister Larson ended up in the Isaan. Elder Burnett is in Chiang Rai. But most everyone else stayed here in Bangkok (which is Thai is krungtheb (city of angels).

My first meal in Thailand that was not with the mission president was Mexican food. It was pretty good. Surpising to be entirely honest but I think I will be eating a lot of Thai food over the next two years, so an occasional break is good. =) The food has been great though. Rice everymeal? Dream come true, answer to prayers- literally. The rice here is SO good too. And it's way nice because everyplace serves drinkable water because not even the Thais can drink the tap water. But I also have become best friends with Seven Eleven. They are EVERYWHERE in Thailand! Seriously. It's awesome. They also have something that's like a WallMart equivalent, but not... kind of more like a mall ish kind of Wall Mart called Tesco Lotus. We eat there ocassionally and it's pretty good.

Our apartment is really amazing. Huge fan. It has a front room, a bathroom and a kitchen on the main floor and then a study room and a bathroom along with a bedroom. We have not one but THREE airconditioners. In fact, sometimes I think it's cooler than our house, if that's possible. =)

You know I actually find that I really like the heat and humidity somedays. It's amazing when it rains because when it rains in Thailand it doesn't just rain, it POURS. The rain pours and pours and pours. But the weather makes Thailand all the more beautiful.

I haven’t seen any elephants yet. Hopefully someday soon! I have seen lots of animals though. And Thailand also has a lot of random dogs too. Love it.

Here's a neat story for you. Elder Shill and I were walking around a neighborhood one day because one of our appointments had cancelled and it was a nice neighborhood with security guards and stuff. And we were about to leave when the guards called us up and said that someone wanted to talked to us. We were confused but we went and we met an American whose mother was the first member of the Church baptized in Hong Kong! And he served his mission to Korea. He works for the US Embassy (I think) and he invited us in. He married a Thai women and though he travels all the time, lives in Thailand with his two children. His wife is Buddhist. But we like taught her almost the entire first lesson and left her with a Book of Mormon. She apparently will read the whole thing. Her husband said that she really would. It was a crazy random happening. Clearly there was some divine intervention going on there.

Our days are full of teaching appointments, finding new investigators by talking to people on the street, visiting members and less-actives along with new members, and trying to help as many people as we can. It's exhausting, but so fun. Learning the language and how to communicate effectively has been a great time. I haven't made any mistakes that I know of yet but we will have to see how that goes. Luckily I can do most things that I want to do right now!

But really everything is just going so great. I have never been more tired or more happy in my entire life. I love being here helping the Thai people in anyway I can. Let's think if there's anything else that would be good to share with you today...

Oh! The street by our apartment always smells amazing in the morning. There are street vendors nearby and the spices they use are simply divine. Thailand, for the most part, smells like Thai food everyplace. In fact, on my first day here I was thinking to myself "Thailand smells like Pawit's/Thai Ruby!" Crazy!

Anyway, I love being here in Thailand. The language is coming despite the fact that it's hard. Despite the fact that's it's hard my belief and confidence and faith in God has grown tremendously as I have seen the way the Gospel can change the Thai people. I love the light in the eyes of the members and the light that lies deep within all the Thai people. You all are so supportive! I love you all so much and I pray for you all all the time. Thanks for all the emails, I don't really have time to respond to them but I am quite a fan of all of them. They really lift me up when it's hot outside and it's hard. But it's really such a tender experience to be able to see how people change and how we can help them in their lives.

Today while we were riding into Bangkok to do some things (we went and bought a few really cheap ties. Word of advice for Elders going to Thailand: Buy your Thais here, they are SO much cheaper and so nice), we heard the Islamic call to prayer. Today we saw several priests and Wats on the way. Thailand is just beautiful all around!

Remember to choose the right, laugh at those times that you don't have a clue what someone's saying in Priesthood meeting (they were talking about welfare principles. I have never been more lost in my entire life!), and most importantly remember that God lives and that he knows His children.

With love, prayers, and blessings from the land of smiles where Elder Newman smiles everyday because he's here!

Elder Jacob Newman

p.s.- i am SO excited that you got to meet Bro. Sakhaa. I can't print off emails here but I will find someplace that I can. Anyway, off to teach English tonight. That should be quite an experience. And a half. I hope I can do it! Thanks for all your prayers. They REALLY do help!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

In Bangkok

Elder Newman has, apparently, arrived safely in Bangkok. Which we learned in a suspicious, vague email yesterday. Though, now we have photographic proof!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

So I totally just wrote a whole bunch and lost it all!

Ahhhh! Stress!

The package arrived in good order and I will just answer the questions from the email that you just sent me. For some reason, I just lost the email that I was writing. It was way long too. So I will have to hurry since I only have 15 minutes left.The package arrived in excellent order and I was pleased with everything. Thank you so much! Give my thanks to Stop, profusely for his help with the Thai language card. I lost mine a couple of weeks ago and I need it for reference for vowels even though I don't use it that much anymore. Thanks for everything. Everything is perfect.)

Do you use your ipod to play music? - They disallowed it at the MTC for some reason but I will use it in Thailand.

Are you still playing the piano and have you ever gotten to do anything special on the piano? Do you think you will ever get to play in Thailand?- I bet you I will be play almost every Sunday in Thailand. I haven't done anything special yet but I am working with our district to our final musical number. We will be singing in Sacrament Meeting- I believe in Christ (Chan chxa nay phrakhrid) and Each Life that Touches ours for Good.

When do you start the Doxycycline medication for malaria?- Unclear. I am not wholly sure.

Did you have to have any additional immunizations or did we get them all taken care of? I heard that some missionaries in your district had to get immunizations.- They got the Japanese mouse brains shot for free. They are going to get two doses. But I think it's good we got it before because I think our doses are probably better than theirs.

Do you already know what day is P-day in Thailand?- Wednesday I think? We teach English at night rather than tract. That's a happy thought.

The elephant cookies made it in good order and I was able to share of the chaang (elephant) goodness. Excellent work. Thank you.

The tape recorder I will ponder about. I will probably send you a more detailed letter today. I really wish they gave us more time for email because that's really frustrating that I just lost all the 15 minutes worth of work. I guess it teaches us patience to experience such trials. Anyway... Let's use the rest of this time wisely.I am so excited to go! The language will be hard the, food different, the culture different, but I already feel a kinship and a love for the Thai people that I cannot express in words. Phom ruu waa mxa phom mii sadthaa nay Phrakhrid lah Phraphuupencaaw phom tham thugsing day! (I know that when I have faith in Christ and God I can do all things). It's really exciting. I think it will be a great time. Really. I just can't wait to get out there and serve the people. I too thought about what Nicole said about the two years and the rest of your life. It's also comforting to think that she told me before I left that she knew I would be okay because I am in God's hands. I have thought about that a lot as I think about what it's going to be like in Thailand. I think it's human to be scared of the unknown, but I can't wait to get to Thailand and share my testimony with the Thai people that they have a Phraphuuchuayhayrawd (Poor rominazation of Savior) and that they can see the blessings of knowing Him in their life. I mean look at Stop, he has worked so hard to share this with everyone he knows. I can't wait to actually meet him in about a week! That's a very happy thought for Elder Newman.

Anyway I think my bag works because I measured it and it seemed to be under 45 inches. I will use the Post Mart system as soon as I can. I will probably do it sometime this week. I am not sure exactly when is the best. (P.S.- I am on earlier since we got up earlier than usual to make the most of our last p-day). I hope it's okay if we just pay the $2.

The camera looks fantastic. I will read the instructions and be sure to be very careful with it. Thank you so much. I will make sure to take a ton of pictures because this is such a once in a lifetime experience. I will mail you my flight plans. I don't know if I will have time to copy them but I will get you all the information that you need. I wish I hadn't lost that first email but oh well. It gave more detailed responses to everything. But anyway, thanks so much for all your support. I will probably be calling you from LAX late at night. At that time, you will probably want to hear me speak Thai so you should probably have something to record the call with if you want.If you have any other questions or need clarification, please Dear Elder me. I will work my hardest to get the answers to you as soon as I can.Okay, remember that I love you all and pray for you all. Thank you so much for all your support. I will get a letter to you guys that's not as rushed. Anyway, I love you all. God bless. Con raw juur iig (till we meet again!)


Elder Jacob Newman