Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Over a Month in Thailand

Dearest Family,


The Thailand joy continues as we continue to press forward and enjoy ourselves as much as possible! The food continues to be wonderful; the people are still as warm and as loving as ever. And Thai. What a joy Thai really is! Everyday it's so much fun to speak Thai and to hear people speaking Thai. Sometimes it's still way confusing as to what people are saying/doing, but that's the best part of it all. I feel much more confident in speaking and understanding than I thought I would at this point so that is definitely a blessing from above. And while far from the point where I would like to be, I am working hard everyday to get to the point where I want to be. Some days it comes easier than others, that's for sure. But the language is beautiful and so fun.
And Thai is just so fascinating.

My new fascination for this week is the use of Thai prounouns. The Thais have a very complex prounoun system that is very respectful and beautiful. So for example when talking to people we will mostly call them Phii (which means like brother/sister sort of... except in the Church sense then we just call them Brother and Sister but with a Thai accent). But for people who are much older than us we call them like Father or Mother (I love the pronoun for Mother and say it all the time.) and sometimes grandmother and grandfather. And for younger children we call them nawng which is also like younger brother/sister. Also people will refer to themselves (mostly women) by their first name as a pronoun rather than the typical gendered pronouns. I really love that because it shows the intricate workings of Thai culture and society. Also the pronoun system used in prayers shows the intricate system of Thai belief. When addressing God or the King different prounouns for I and we are used to express the idea that one is talking to God or a king. It's such a beautiful language! Seriously. Everyday. Love it.

In other news, I will be having a luug (child) soon! As in tomorrow. Let me explain. In Thailand they call greenies children and trainers fathers or mothers. But we are going to have a Thai missionary here in Bangkapi for next week only before moves because he needs a place to stay before moves. So technically he will be my luug also in a strange sense. The Thai native missionaries go to the MTC in the Phillipines and then come here so that's why they are coming at an odd time because they already know Thai. And all missionaries in Bangkok go to moves meeting. Oh and I forgot to tell you that we get mail every week on P-day. Just in case that wasn't clear. Anyway some answers and then some experiences!

On Saturday, we went to the wedding reception at our building. It was much longer than anticipated but it was really fun. It was a wedding for a very strong Sister named Sister Daaw and her husband who is a branch president in someplace about an hour away from Bankgapi. They got married in the Hong Kong temple and then had a reception at the Church. Seriously. So much food! And it was wonderful! That's where I saw Stop and he told me that his Dad has been called to be a bishop in Asoke. Dang! I was so excited about that. It was so good to see Stop too. He's way funny. And he's so skilled at English. Seriously, he's a great guy. And he has a great testimony. He will make a great missionary someday soon!

I have done many musical numbers. But it's all good fun. The music is a great way to communicate love for Christ. Last week we sang where can I turn for peace in church. In Thai it's way pretty. Thai translations are always way fun and give more meaning to the songs.

Elder Shill lets me talk! He's great that way. Even though it's still a struggle to say exactly what I want I love it. Teaching is fun even if it is stressful sometimes. It's great like that. Today I will be teaching English by myself since we split up the rooms. I will be teaching basic rather than advanced. It should be really fun though. Stressful but fun!

Anyway, updates on what's been going on. We are still teaching Brother Egg. It's just a matter of time with him and it's his timetable when, rather than if, he gets baptized. He has been learning for about a year. He has a great testimony and speaks so clearly, I love it. It's crazy how well I understand him, I don't really get how I can understand him as well as I can. It's a miracle for sure.

We have another investigator who is getting ready for baptism called Bawb. He's doing well and he's opened up a lot. At first, he was so nervous with us but now he's really opening up. Our last lesson with him went pretty well. We taught the plan of salvation. It went pretty well. That day was a bit frazzling but we managed to do it. It was great but for some reason we were having the hardest time speaking clear Thai that night, both me and Elder Shill. It was crazy. But it went well.

We have another new investigator named Decha who is very interested. He attended Sister Daaw's wedding and will be meeting with us today. He's so nice and really genuine. I hope that goes really well.

We also taught Ton (That's a really poor romanization of his name) and he was great. We met him at English awhile back and have only met with him twice but every time we meet with him it goes so well! I was the one who actually originally talked to him at English so it's crazy to see him and his desire and to see his progression. He's a great guy but hard to meet with since he plays soccer everyday almost. But he is genuinely interested. It's such a sweet experience to see people change. Even though we may not be able to understand the language all the time, when you look in people's eyes you can really see into their souls. It's an amazing experience.

This last week we also saw an awesome less active member named Brother Dang. He's so funny! He speaks really quickly and I can understand only bits and pieces of what he says but when I do, it's way funny. His wife and daughter are both pretty active but he has been struggling a little bit. But he has such a sweet, good heart. He also loves to smile. There is nothing in the world that can compare to the real Thai smile. I love it. It's so warm and friendly and emulates the love of God, really.

This Sunday we will be having a fireside that will be talking about getting the temple to Thailand (sort of) but it's mostly about involving members with missionary work. It's going to be great. Our Bishop here in Bangkapi is such a great bishop! He really supports us and gets so excited about everything, he's a great guy. He really keeps the ward going strong! This fireside will be a great pump-up for the members who already do a lot to help us.

Speaking of which, the patriarch here in Thailand is still the blind man! He's in the ward where Elder McConkie is serving. I found out because a member of our ward went to get his blessing from him. How amazing he must be!

Oh, more news! The name of the Church is changing and the Church is getting a new translation of the Book of Mormon and D and C in, get this, a triple(!) early next year! The new name of the Church is SO slightly different that I am not even sure how it really even changes the meaning. The new name reflects purity of heart, however, from what I understand. So they will be changing that name soon. They also retranslated a bunch of Church vocabulary to reflect new meanings and to be more precise translations. Some notable changes include the sacrament prayers and the articles of faith along with the names of the kingdoms of glory and other key terms. It will be interesting to see the changes and if they will be reflected in the next general conference, which is coming up way faster than I ever thought it would. The time in Thailand flies by here.

More great food everyday. Yesterday we went to a Korean barbeque kind of place that was Thai-izized. It was way good. I got to try all the Thai desserts and have mango and this other way good fruit with sticky rice. It was amazing. Everyday the food is still just amazing. Love it.

Elder Shill is so great. We have a TON of fun together and we really have done some great things for the area. We have turned the area around according to him. We are finding some great people and doing some really good work. Even when we get ditched out on appointments, we still have such a great time. It's so much fun! He keeps things positive and has a great love and charity for the Thai people. We work hard and it's seriously is the most fun ever. Even when we are exhausted, it's awesome. I will miss him a LOT when he goes back to America next moves!

Anyway, I have had away good week full of help from above with the language and all kinds of faith affirming experiences. I love the fact that Thailand is Thailand. Everyday I look around and see some of the best people I have ever met. I see my brothers and sisters and I see a people who are so loving and care and genuine. I see a culture that values family and love. I am so grateful for the opportunity to help the Thai people everyday and to strengthen them. I am grateful for their language which, hard as it is, is the most beautiful language on the earth! And I am grateful for the members of the Church here who have sacrificed so much to be members.

I have a testimony that God lives because I see how He changes the Thai people everyday. I see how their testimonies of the gospel, despite the opposition they face, move them forward. I see how Jesus Christ has also changed the lives of Thai people. I have a very strong testimony of the power of His atonement. That it provides a chance for the whole human family to change. It provides a chance for us to grow and learn and change our lives. Whenever we talk about the atonement, I think of how it has changed my life and I love seeing how it changes Thai people. There is something so amazing about sharing the power of the atonement, the power of prayer, the power of the restoration. It changes people. It awakens something within them that cannot be expressed. Light enters their lives and they begin to recognize God's presence. And since I have been in Thailand, I have come to see that while I cannot speak the language perfectly or understand the culture perfectly, as I try my hardest, there are people who will listen. There is a reason I am here in Thailand. Everyday when we teach, I reflect upon this and see how since I have been here how everyday is a witness that I am supposed to be here in Thailand right now. I am so grateful for this opportunity to teach the Thai people. I feel so blessed to know them. Their language, culture, food, and of course the people are things that I never knew I could love as much as I do. And I see how one day, the Gospel in Thailand will flourish beyond what I can imagine at this point.

Alright family,

I love you all and pray for you daily. I ask for your prayers also. God bless you all. I love you all so much!

Elder Jacob Newman

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