Friday, October 30, 2009

Thank you for the birthday wishes!

October 28, 2009

Dear Family!

Thank you for all the warm birthday wishes! They brought joy and happiness to my heart. I was very happy to hear that everyone is doing so well and that all is going well back in America. Sometimes I forget that I am 8,000+ miles away because Thailand became home really, really quickly. I am so used to the smell of the khlongs that run through Bangkapi, the hustle and bustle of people, the sound of buses, taxis, and fruit trucks. Everyplace you go, you see people selling food or peddling wares. And also on every soi (streets that run off of major roads), there are businesses galore. We live right next to a beauty salon that's owned by our landlords. There are places to make copies, little grocery stores and all kinds of things. I will be sure to get more pictures while we are out and about today so you can see what life is like. To find where I am, see if you can find Nawamin on Google Earth. It's a fairly major road. I would spell it in Thai but I don't know that you can read it.

Thanks again for all the birthday wishes, we will be sure to do something fun I have no doubt of it. But it will be good!

There are a lot of insects in Thailand. One day a couple of weeks ago we found a HUGE centipede that was bout 6-10 inches long. I saw it while Elder Shill and our Thai companion were in the kitchen. It was really gross and way big. Sometimes we have spiders and ants are everywhere in Thailand but besides that, that's about it. Nothing too crazy really.

This week we managed to teach Egg, who will be getting baptized on the 8th. He has a great testimony and really has changed so much because of the gospel. He understands so well and has a great desire to be baptized, he will be a great member, I have no doubt of it. We taught a lesson on the priesthood yesterday with a member named Brother Prxg and another member who I have talked about before, Brother Champ. Brother Champ actually came with his friend Sister Yoke who was helping to teach the sisters and he just joined us in the lesson. Champ and Prxg are both so skillful with teaching that Elder Shill and I ended up not really teaching the lesson at all. We shared verses from scriptures and bore our testimonies. It was great! Egg is ready to interview for baptism and he will do great.

We also taught Brother Golf's friend, Max, who is SWEET! He understands so well. When we taught him the plan of salvation, he literally taught himself some parts. He understood the need for a Savior perfectly. Absolutely perfectly. And it was a great time. He doesn't feel ready to be baptized, however. At least not yet. There are some things in his life that make him feel like he is not ready yet. But he is great! He is willing to meet 2-3 times a week which is REALLY good. We have very few people who are willing to do that as early on as he is. We only have one other investigator who is willing to do that, meet 2-3 times a week.

Prayad is the above mentioned investigator. He loves the scriptures, prays with sincerity, and is gaining faith. He reads everyday in the Book of Mormon and prays for help. It's so amazing to the see the change within him. He has changed immensely since the first day I met him. A new light has entered his life and he feels different. In fact, we went to visit with his grandkids there and he asked them to listen and fold their arms when we prayed. It was so adorable! He's doing great. He's come to Church three weeks in a row now. He even went to Stake Conference in Bangkhen which is pretty far away.

Our other investigator Bawb is doing well but still a little too neutral on most topics. He likes praying and reading scriptures if he has time but isn't super engaged into it. Although, at our last lesson with him, he was very chatty. We will be working on getting him to Church in the near future.

We have just been having a good time here in Thailand. We see the mercies of God everyday as we try our hardest to put ourselves out there. The Thai people smile and may not always be interested but there are people out there who are changed by the gospel. I see it everyday. I see how the knowledge of eternal families can change the perspective of the world. The knowledge that Jesus Christ came to this earth to feel of the suffering of all mankind can change and help everyone. I have grown to have such a strong testimony of that on the days where it seems harder. Every time the journey becomes difficult, I think we can reflect back upon our Savior and see how he truly did descend below all things. We are not greater than He. He helps us everyday as we reach out to the Thai people. And everyday we have an opportunity to help the Children of God grow closer to Him. I love this opportunity to give of myself and to show my love for the Thai people. Jesus Christ truly is the Savior of all mankind. I cannot deny that as I see how He changes Thai people. And how He changes me everyday. I have come to see the divine nature of missionary work. We truly have been given the errand of angels. And while we are not perfect and we make mistakes, often, we can rest assured that our Savior and our Father in Heaven always have their arms opened to receive us and help us along.

The language is still coming along. I feel like I improve a little bit everyday. And I feel that it has really caused me to rely on God more and more. While I don't speak the language perfectly, I know that that will improve as I work hard and put my trust in God. I have no doubt of that. It's such a blessing to speak one of the most beautiful languages in the world. It's a language that expresses relationships better than any other that I know of! In fact, that reminds me of how we went to a new converts house for lunch with our ward mission leader Brother Mon and the Sisters in our district. She calls all of us her luugs and we call her our mother. Thai expresses relationships like that all the time. The pronoun system is way complex. So technically when speaking to her we could respond with using luug as a pronoun referring to I or she could use it to refer to us. It's so awesome.

The food continues to be amazing as always. And I continue to have way good health! I have no doubt that is a result of many prayers from a good family at home! Thanks for all the birthday wishes again. I am so grateful for all that you do for me and all the ways that you support me. Thailand is amazing of course still. And I love every second of it!

I love you all. Thank you all again.

Elder Jacob Newman

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Brother Golf's Friend, Prayad and Other Great Things!

Hello Family!


Today we went bowling for p-day after we ate at Sizzler. It was way fun. We went with Elder Firouzi and his new Thai companion who Elder Shill and I had before moves, Elder Phanuphong.

How is everything going at home? I hope that all is going well. Thailand continues to be the best, as usual. It's been more rainy than usual. Typically the rainy season ends around September but here we are the 21st of October and it still rains. Last night we didn't sleep as well because at three in the morning we heard the loudest crash of lightening I have ever heard in my life. I am pretty sure it was in the field behind our house. But besides that, the weather has been good. Everything has been going well lately! We have had some great things that happened and had fun along the way!

I will buy a new suit in the next two weeks. I have figured that I have lost about 40 pounds since I entered the MTC. I haven't weighed this much in years! It's pretty crazy! I would love to be able to keep it off too! I am eating well and everything and I haven't been sick at all but I guess the diet is better and I am doing a lot of walking!

This is our typical schedule. We wake up at 6:30, study from 8-10:30 ish and then go out and tract or teach for a bit. Then we get lunch. After that we typically have appointments for the rest of the day. We have some regular appointments. Each P-day we teach English from 6:30 to 8. After that we almost always meet with Egg, who is preparing for baptism. We have some other regulars who we meet with, Bawb on Mondays at 8, Prayad on Fridays at 10:00. We also go see Brother Chaliaw on Tuesdays at 6. He's a recent convert. Brother Boon, a member who is working to come back, we usually see sometime in the late afternoon during mid-week. We are back in our apartment by 9:00 or a little later depending on what happens.

I saw Stop and met both his mom and dad! They are all solid and so great. We did switch offs with the zone leaders and I went to Bangkhen to switch off. It was way fun! One of their investigators over there (it's about 20-30 minutes away from Bangkapi if the traffic is good) had their baptismal interview and we shared some scriptures with a recent convert named Brother Bawn บอล, pronounced like bawn sort of. He's Stop's friend and is really awesome. He helped us teach a lesson to a new investigator that the Zone Leaders have and it went well. Then we went to Stop's house to have a service project and family home evening. Stop's mom is SUCH a good cook! It was amazing! And they had jack fruit which, as it turns out, is the best fruit ever. It was fun to meet Stop's dad too who is the new Bishop. The family is so awesome. They are such a blessing to all of Thailand!

There's this 20ish year-old Brother in our ward, Brother Golf, who helped us teach the other day. He brought his friend who, has been introduced to over 20 sets of missionaries but they have never taught him! We agreed to teach him and yesterday we had an amazing lesson with him. He understands SO well and when he prayed at the end it really came from his heart. Golf has introduced him to the Church in the past but this was his first formal meeting with us. He accepted to be baptized! When he prayed, he thanked God that he had had the opportunity to meet with us. And then he got quiet during his prayer. Elder Shill and I both looked up at different times and he was crying along with Brother Golf. He is very ready to learn. Let's pray that he will continue to be so excited! His name is Max. He's a great guy who understands well. The Spirit really touched him.

Prayad came to Stake Conference, which was rebroadcast from Salt Lake. It was great! He and Egg both came. Prayad is really ready and he prays really well! We had a lesson where the Spirit was so strong with him too. He's definitely changing, slowly but surely. He's a great guy and I know he will do great things as we continue to teach him.

I think every day I come to a stronger realization of the following: As children of God, God really does know us one by one. God doesn't know us as a group, He knows us as his child. He knows us so intimately that He knows how to help us, how to help those around us. I have no doubt that miracles happen everyday here in Thailand. God knows His children everywhere. Everyday is a continued testimony of that to me. As I consider this, I don’t understand it, but it is something that I have come to see so clearly here. I have also become very much convinced of the specialness of the Thai people. They are amazing people. They really are. They are so patient with us and the language and really do love others despite their differences. There are people prepared to accept the gospel and to serve our Father in Heaven. Conversion isn't something that takes place in an instant and the changes are slow but the changes are extraordinary nonetheless. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be here in Thailand with a language that is so communicative, a people that love one another, and a culture that is so beautiful. I come to love Thailand even more everyday. And while often we face rejection and disappointments when things don't work out as we plan, I have no doubt that everything will work together for our good. Of course I sound naive but I really believe that.

Elder Shill is still fantastic. I will miss him so much when he goes home! He's a great guy and has helped me out so much with everything. He leaves on the next moves day which is 23 days from today. He is going to BYU for sure however so it sounds like we will probably meet again soon.

Please let my friends know that I haven't forgotten them. If I don't write, it's not because I don't care. =). I love you all deeply. Your prayers help. May God bless you all! Thailand is the best!

With love,

Elder Jacob Newman

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Brother Champ, Conference and other Happy Thoughts

Hello Family!


It was GREAT to hear from all of you. I loved the notes from Katie and Josh. I miss you both and hope that all is still going well with you. It was also good to hear from David this week. This has been a great week, a bit different than expected but fun and of course joyous. Thailand continues to be the best place on earth. It's been raining more lately but the heat hasn't been too bad. Eventually the heat becomes almost pleasant, however weird that sounds.

Zone Conference was good. President Smith talked about the new way that we will be working with members in Thailand to help missionary work progress. He also talked about the infinite atonement. All in all it was a good time. We had it at our Church here in Bangkapi. It was fun to see all the people from the Bangkok zones and how they are doing. Everyone is getting way good at Thai in my group! I got to see Elder Holt who is doing great in Lopburi with the monkeys And I got to see Sister Young who is in a threesome with Sister O'Neil (our Phiithai from the MTC) and her trainer Sister Hulme, Sister Akagi who is in Pakkhret where the office is, Elder Brix who is doing well and Elder Fowles who is also doing well.

In answer to your questions about rice, Thailand grows a LOT of rice. There are more kinds of rice here than I thought possible. Sticky rice is, of course, the best. Thailand definitely grows a lot of the rice. Elder Shill was telling me about meeting Bro. Saakha's family and how where he is from in the sticks, it's a little place called Gumphawapi, has rice fields galore! With kwaay (water buffalo?) galore. Outside of Bangkok, Thailand has lot of agriculture. Bangkok is like a mixture of the old with the new.

We had a busy end of the week last week with General Conference and Zone Conference. We watched GC in Thai. We listened to some of it in English at the same time but it was HARD to tune out the Thai. I heard Brother Saakha and that brought much joy to my heart! He is so good too! He speaks way clearly and he puts good feeling into it.

On Sunday we had a really neat experience. After conference, we had invited a 19 year old member named Champ to go teaching with us. He came to the Church at the right time and then we were going to go to teach our investigators, two men from the south who own a southern restaurant. But we went and they weren't there. So, Elder Shill decided we should go see a less active 70 year old man named Grajangchoog with Brother Champ. So we went. Brother Champ was amazing! We have never taught with him before but he bore such powerful testimony and talked about how he has a goal to be a missionary despite the fact that, according to him, he's not khemkhaeng (super-active/strong/spiritually strong). He is an AMAZING teacher though. He taught with power from heaven! I really hope he does become a missionary because he would do SUCH a GREAT job.

We have one investigator who decided to go be a Phra in the temple but has been reading in the BOM. I have never met him but he wanted to talk to me on the phone. His name is Lucky. He will be back next month. He's all the way to 4th Nephi in the Book of Mormon! And he's excited to go to Church. That was very exciting.

Oh! I forgot to mention that we had two investigators at Conference! One was Egg, who will be getting baptized here pretty soon. He loves conference and has such a great testimony. He's awesome! And the other is Prayad. He's a great guy! And he came for the first time to the Church and loved it! He works so hard for his family (he has 8 children that he financially supports). He has a really strong testimony of prayer. It's so exciting to see people respond to a belief in God. It really changes their lives. There is something special about Thailand in that sense. The Church in Thailand is the result of many years of hard work and prayers. There are many challenges about being a member but there are those out there who are great people who work hard to be faithful members and to build up the Church here. I wish I could convey that adequately. I also wish I could adequately convey my love for Thailand and the Thai people. I think these past few days it's become even greater as I have tried to be more courageous about talking to people. But it turns out that people think you are cool if you can speak Thai! So no matter how many mistakes I make in Thai, as long as I try to speak I can speak. I am starting to feel more confident about that. It's way fun! Thai is awesome fun. And the language it uses for Church things is SO pretty! Prayer language is my favorite. Thai's complex pronoun system expresses a sense of closeness and reverence towards God. It's so neat.

Anyway, I am so grateful to be here and I love it. Of course, there are harder days but it is a wonderful place with many miracles just waiting to happen everyday! It's a place where a smile expresses the attitudes of a people. A place where joy permeates the air everyday and where the food only gets better and better.

The language continues to become easier as I put myself in situations that are hard! Stretching yourself really brings forth blessings!

May God bless you all! I miss you and think of you often. I send you with my prayers and blessings.

Elder Jacob Newman

p.s.- Send my love to all those within the sound of my voice! Well... not voice per se, but you get the point.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hello From the Land of Smiles!


All is well here in the land of smiles and joy! It has been a good week with lots of great experiences and all kinds of joy. We had some really miraculous things and some really funny things too. Of course, Thailand is always a joy and it brings such adventure. The best way to describe Thailand is probably as the land of contrast. There is the contrast of the old and the new everywhere.

Conference is coming up this week so that's pretty exciting. I'm happy to hear about Brother Saakha. Elder Shill has actually met his family from his home town, a tiny town called Gumphawaphi in the Isaan. They couldn't communicate with his mom very well since she spoke Isaan. Isaan is closer to Laotian, which is close to Thai but still very different.

I have heard great things about all of the missionaries in my MTC district. Some are in Bangkok but there are a lot out in the Isaan with one in Chiang Rai. I hear everyone is doing really well. Elder Holt is in an adjacent zone to mine and he's doing great! He has such a great attitude. He is doing amazing things and I have no doubt that will continue.

Anyway, on to some things that happened this week. First big news: we will be having a baptism right before the end of moves if all goes well! One of our investigators, who might as well be a member named Egg has decided, after a year of learning, to get baptized this November. He set his own date! And we are really excited. We are going to be working to prepare him for baptism. He has a great, great testimony.. He will make a great member for the ward. It's been really fun to get to know him and to work with him. He's such an example of how people can change. He started out as an English student who didn't feel ready to pray and is now studying and praying daily and attending Church every week.

Another great experience has been our work with Bro. Boon. He's a member whose mom is a very strong member in the Isaan but he hasn't been active for years. He approached us wanting help to come back. The way he was found was pretty crazy. His nephew, Mii (bear) lives with him here in Bangkok to go to school.. He was baptized and the Sisters sought to get him back to Church. His uncle, Brother Boon, was ready to come back. He really wants to come back and back strong. We have been reviewing doctrine with him and he has been reading in the scriptures daily on his own. (We didn't even know he was doing that till last week!) He's really trying so hard and it's so great how much strength he has. He's so nice and really such a great guy! Elder Shill and I are SO happy with our work with helping him.

When we contact people on the street, we don't call it contacting, we call it inviting. I am a little scared of inviting still. But, I started talking to this security guard and he was WAY nice and actually interested. Then we came back the next day and he had remembered that we were going to come back and waited for us. We had a GREAT 20 minute lesson with him and he was just so awesome. After we finished, he asked us how he could get to Church. What?!? When does that happen in Thailand? Not very often. We will have to see how it goes with him. We gave him the BOM and he seems really interested. Then the next guy I invited on the same street was way interested too. We didn't get an appointment or a number from him but it really increased my courage to open my mouth, even if it's scary with the language.Then we invited another man last night at a southern Thai food restaurant. After Elder Shill talked about the BOM and how it explains what life is like after death, he asked us in seriousness: “What will life be like after death?” And he invited us to sit down! It was crazy. He seemed to be really interested also. This has been a real blessing for us as we have had a harder time finding people lately.

I have a testimony that while people often reject our message here in Thailand, there are people out there who God is touching. Often the greatest miracles aren't the ones that seem big, but the ones that seem small. From seeing someone slowly gain the courage to pray to watching as someone gains a testimony of the Savior, inch by inch, people change. Sometimes it's hard to face rejection but the rejection is not a rejection of us personally. In fact, Thai people love to talk to us because we actually speak Thai which is a bit odd for faraangs. Some days it's hard to see the big picture. So often we get bogged down in the here and now. But I have come to see when we focus on the bigger things, not the small things, that's where true happiness will be. I have seen the things that really matter here in Thailand. In the end, money may seem to bring joy but in reality the things that bring joy are the simple things: family, faith, love, kindness. I think that's another thing I love about the Thais. So many of them see the important things in life. Some have so little but are so happy. They are happy because they see the big picture.

They are reducing the size of the mission. They are eliminating 10 Elder's areas very soon. It's going to be a small mission. But it should be great still. The members will be able to do it. They have the faith to do it!

We will be seeing conference this Saturday and Sunday in Thai but our ward mission leader, Brother Mon, who speaks PERFECT English due to being a missionary in America, got it for us in English so we can listen to it in English and watch it with our Thai brothers and sisters.

Alright family, well I love you all dearly and deeply. I love Thailand and I know that there is a reason that I am here. While it's so humbling most of the days to think how hard this is, it's totally worth it everyday. We see miracles everyday that press us forward. We see the lives of people changing. We see the faith of members and we see the power of Jesus Christ here in Thailand. We see new converts who have testimonies and desires to help the work in Thailand. We see the power that our Father in Heaven has to help his children. And to help us. Everyday I feel so grateful to be a witness for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. He helps us each day as we experience hardships to keep a smile on our face, delicious food in hand, and a desire to help our Thai brothers and sisters!

With Love and Joy! Sending Blessings to you,

Elder Jacob Newman

p.s.- Let my friends know I will try to be less of a bad correspondent. But it's hard. So send love.