Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Good Happenings from the Land of Joy

November 25, 2009

Dearest Family,

How are you all? Everything is going splendidly here in Thailand! It is getting a little chilly. (It may have hit the high 70s or 80s the other day.) The humidity doesn't seem as bad and in the words of most members, it is really cold. But it feels pleasant to me! The food continues to be great! Spicy is delicious. I am getting about 7 peppers now which is pretty hot. I am working my way up to 10.

Wednesday night we had the best English class ever! It was way fun. Elder Olinger is way เกง except add a little line over the middle letter (I couldn't find the tone marker on the keybord) (That word means skillful) at teaching English. The students all had a lot of fun. I had fun!

On Friday we taught Prayad, who is doing so well. He is great! I feel like he has faith in God and is willing to do whatever God asks him to do. In fact, teaching him has become so easy! Then we had a great lesson with a new investigator named Ex who is way awesome! He is a Christian but not terribly active in his Church. He is pretty dedicated to learning. He wants to know where the truth can be found.

Saturday was quite the day. We did inviting in the morning and went by to visit Max to see how he was doing. After that, we were invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a member's home. It was WAY good. They live right by the office in Pakkret.. They had turkey, ham, stuffing, and all the trimmings, with three kinds of pies. Needless to say, my body is not really used to "faraang" food so it was a bit much for the stomach. I felt way too full afterwards. But it was good! The mother is a member married to a Thai man who is not a member. They have children who have served missions though. One is going to Cambodia right now. The father owns manufacturing plants in Thailand that make canned fruit and canned vegetables. They have a huge part in the baby corn business. Which everyone knows, might be the most delicious vegetable on the planet.

Sunday morning Elder Olinger had his first interview with an investigator for baptism. She passed and will be baptized this coming Sunday! She's married to an RM who is in the states right now working but she will be here for about a year before she goes back to the states. Then we had a good round of Church here in Thailand. Afterwards we went home teaching with Brother Chaliaow to see Brother Gaeb (Brother Golf's older brother). We were assigned to be Brother C’s home teaching companions so he can see how it is done and then he will be able to do it in the future. It was good to see him. He hasn't been to Church in a while but he was super friendly and I really enjoyed the time visiting with him.

After that we taught Max, who is doing really well. He understands everything like a superstar he just needs support to go to Church and to keep the commandments. I feel like he is a real blessing from heaven.

Zone conference was at our Church on Monday. A bit of stress to set up for but the food was GREAT. It was provided by a member in Din Daeng. She is SO nice and provided us with a great spread. We had Elder Pratt and his wife come to talk.

After that, we had an appointment with Bawb. He is so surprising/shocking to me. He wants us to come and teach his family now? He invited us to visit him to get to know his family. It's all thanks to Elder Olinger who asked him straight out what he wants to get from our visits with him. Then he said he wants Church to be a family affair. We are going to pray that his family will open their hearts. He loves his family so much. He has one child who is almost two years old. So great!

Yesterday we got to see Prayad, Max and Lucky all on the same day. They are all doing great. Lucky was as funny as ever. He might move his baptismal date a little closer but we will have to see. It's so amazing to see how much he loves the gospel. In fact, he gave us a referral the other day because he went up to talk to someone about Jesus Christ and they were interested. Wow! Talk about a member missionary eh?

It's almost Thanksgiving. I want to express my gratitude for all of you who may read this. I am so grateful for my family, who I love with all my heart. I have 6 wonderful siblings, with nieces and nephews who are adorable and awesome in-laws. You are all such a blessing in my life. I am so grateful for your support and your wonderful letters of encouragement. I miss you all. You are such special people and wonderful examples to me. Please remember that I pray for you all often and think of you!

I am grateful for my friends who still support me even though I am a very, very lame correspondent. Thank you so much for all your letters of support and encouragement. They really do help so much!

And I am so grateful to be here in Thailand. I love this wonderful adventure! The food, the scenery are all great but what makes Thailand the best is the opportunity to serve and love the Thai people and to share about Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World with them. I know he is the Savior of the World and this Thanksgiving I give thanks that he took upon him our sorrows along with our transgressions. I know that He feels our pains everyday. He knows us intimately and personally. He is well acquainted with the grief of the world and knows us. Everyday I consider it a privilege to wear His name upon my heart and to show my love for the most wonderful people. I am so grateful that God has allowed me to come here to Bangkapi at this time to help those here come unto Jesus Christ. I know that I was called to Thailand for a purpose. And even when times get trying, I know that God is there beside me. He is my strength and my beacon at this time.

I am grateful for the plan of salvation and that through it families can be together forever. Recently a new convert’s wife passed away unexpectedly. As I reflect upon the frailty of life, I feel so grateful to know that through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can be with those who we love forever and ever. What joy this sentence brings! Through Jesus Christ and His Gospel, families won't be separated. All things that are wrong can be made up through His atonement. And when I say all things, I mean all things. There is nothing that cannot be changed through the atonement. While often God will answer our prayers in ways that we do not expect, the atonement of Christ provides us with power. And strength to press on!

Thailand is a special place with a special people. Thank you again so much for your support. I know that Christ lives and that He is our redeemer. Everyday, every single day, I see how He has changed people's lives. And most obviously, I see how He has changed me. He changes me everyday, making me a better person.

Thank you all again! I love you and send you my blessings. Remember to pray and rely upon our Savior!

With Love,

Elder Jacob Newman

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Companion and Other Happening

Hello My Beloved Family!

How are you all doing today? I am doing fairly well today. All continues to be glorious here in Thailand despite a few sad changes. Elder Shill leaving was a really hard day for me. But I am so happy to know that he gets to see his family and gets to go to BYU! He was such a great example to me and I will never forget my Dad (that's what we call trainers here in Thailand Moms and Dads.... except in Thai of course).

I was surprised to hear that my new companion would be Elder Olinger, who only has two moves left here in Thailand. Elder Olinger is a great guy from Kansas. He just came from the Isaan and this is going to be the place where he finishes up his mission. This moves is really short because of a Church policy that makes it so that missionaries cannot be away from home for three Christmases. So we have moves meeting a week earlier than usual and then we get the new missionaries the next week. So that will be interesting. It's quite a change to get a new companion but it's been fun so far. I have tried a lot of new foods and have gotten to try more fruit and the likes. It's been really fun!

Anyway, onto some good lesson/great things this week.

First of all, let's talk about some great happenings. I love the fact that I was reminded this week of how small and simple things can make great differences. Earlier this week, we were walking down the street because some of our appointments fell through. I heard a small Thai woman say to me, "Elder?" It turned out that she was a member from the Isaan who had moved to Bangkok and wasn't sure where to go to Church. She was very excited to know that there was a Church nearby that she could attend. The chance of us running into her was very slim. It was truly a miracle. The next day, we had about 15 minutes left and we were right by our house. I decided that we should go and try to invite just a little bit more. It just so happened that we ran into a member’s friend who we have been working with. He was sitting at the bus stop. We took some time to talk to him and we ask him to pray. He said he would give it a shot. These things don't just happen by coincidence. I have no doubt that on those days where perhaps things were a bit more discouraging, God sent little miracles, little seeds of hope to keep me going. Often we will have appointments fall through, face rejection and heartache, but through the midst of it all, there is always something just around the corner waiting to give us that hope.

Another great happening: One of our investigators Max set a baptisimal date! We watched the restoration with him and he told us he has a testmiony of Joseph Smith. He believes that he was prophet of God. The Spirit was so strong. I really felt the power of God as we extended an invitation for him to think about baptism and then he proceeded to set a date.

I think we so often go through life and look at the hardships that we face. I know that those times when I have faced a difficult time here in Thailand, I have come to realize how much Jesus Christ really loves us. Despite the fact that we face hardships as we strive to help our Thai siblings come unto Christ, I have come to realize that Christ really lives. That this really is His work. One missionary who finished his mission with Elder Shill is named Elder Miles. Elder Miles made a really touching point as he gave what's called a jobber (finisher of mission) training. He said "The times when missionary work got hard were when I forgot my Father in Heaven." I think I have decided that to be a focusing point for the rest of my mission. Though hardships may come, as long as we remember our Father in Heaven, everything will work out. I love this thought with all my heart. I love the fact that I have a loving Father in Heaven who will help me.

Now of course that sounded a little dreary maybe, but all is really going so well! I love Thailand with all my heart. I love the people, I love the culture, the food, the music. Everything is SO great.

I love you all, miracles happen everyday.

Elder Jacob Newman

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Egg Was Baptized!!!


Dearest Family,

This last Sunday was the best day ever. First of all, we had lots of people at sacrament meeting, including many who don't typically come to church! We also had a great lesson with our ward mission leader in the Gospel Essentials class. It was WAY funny because we played this name game that everyone loved. My favorite one was a recent convert named Mae Khem (mae=mother). She said for her name which starts with a ก that she enjoys การทำงานของพระเจา! That means the work of the Lord. It made me smile. She is such a funny lady! After that we had a really great lesson from the Joseph Smith manual that was prepared by a member. The Spirit was powerful and the member taught very well. Then there was delicious food as always and finally...

Egg was baptized. As I said earlier, he chose me to baptize him. The day was way good but there were two things that concerned me: the first that I have never baptized anyone and the second that it was in Thai. Both of these facts made me nervous. But in the end it was great! I said the prayer correctly and the Spirit was very strong. Egg bore a wonderful testimony afterwards. (And the Bishop sang a song for him. Our Bishop is a musician.) Then we had a fireside. We had some members do a play. It was awesome. Brother Pxrg and Sister Yog along with Brother Champ and Sister Rose all did a way great job. It went off without a hitch and everyone enjoyed it. So all in all, Church was fantastic this last week.

In Egg's testimony, he talked about how his family didn't really support his decision but that he knew that the things that he was taught were true. He talked about the fact that often in our lives we will stand alone in this decision, but we always know that God and Christ are watching out for us. I am amazed by his faith and trust in God. He now has a goal to be a missionary. He is an amazing man who is sensitive to the things of God.
He is 20 or 21 years old and a student at a school called Ramkhemhaeng University.

In other news, I have some great stories from some of our investigators.

Prayad continues to be a surprise as we work with him and he is gaining faith. We just taught the word of wisdom and he is more than willing to live it. He didn't really have any problem with it. When he prays, it feels like a real two way communication. It's really amazing. If he keeps up at this rate, he will be baptized by the date that we set with him. He really keeps pressing forward.

Lucky is so awesome! He knows EVERYTHING that we teach him and he eats it up. He is so FRIENDLY, too. He loves the members and they love him. He has a great testimony already. He loves Church and he is just good to go. He set a goal to be baptized on January 3rd. We are excited to keep teaching him. Yesterday we taught him and he understands everything.

We have not had a chance to meet with Max this week. He missed his appointment earlier this week but we don't know why exactly. He still is reading and praying and desires baptism. We will keep working with him with Brother Golf.

This week we also went out to dinner with Brother Prxg. He took us to this AWESOME Isaan place that was amazing. We had this whole huge fish with somtum and laab. It was so good. But the best part was that he thanked us for being in Thailand. He shared with us the fact that he appreciated what we were doing. He was a missionary 10 years ago and met President Hinckley when he came to Thailand.

On Tuesday morning our Bishop gave us some delicious Isaan food. He also thanked us for our service. He's so GREAT. He does so much for the ward. He loves all the members of the ward and has a great family. (He has three children: Stamp, Topper, and the youngest, who has the BEST name ever, Princess.) He really is so concerned about the ward and works hard for it.

Basically the members this week were amazing with Elder Shill and Sister Christensen (she will be moving this moves). They all were so grateful and loving to them and showed their appreciation for them.

I am so grateful for the members here in Thailand. The members in Thailand sacrifice so much for their faith. They know that they have a Father in Heaven and a Savior who loves them and they act on this knowledge. Though they are few in number, they know that there are blessings in store for them as they exercise faith in God. And while temptations and trials come, they desire to follow Christ. From Brother Egg's baptism to the example of our Bishop, we see how dedicated people are to the gospel. I have been amazed at the members ever since I got to Thailand. I see people everyday who may not have as much as we have, who may have challenges beyond that which we can imagine but they still act on their faith everyday. My experience with the baptism was another wonderful moment. I will never forget the feeling I had and the feelings Brother Egg expressed. It was an experience to be cherished for a lifetime. I cannot believe the things that I have seen so far and how people change. I cannot believe that a little seed of faith can sprout so quickly. It's an amazing experience.

And the food of Thailand continues to be delicious. Everyday I feel great! I am thin and I feel fantastic.

Alright family, know that I love you all and pray for you daily. I know your prayers help me everyday. Until we "speak" again!

Elder Jacob Newman

p.s. - David- I just remembered that the King's Birthday, a national holiday, is on the Fifth of Next Month. Please advise accordingly.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Very Happy Birthday indeed. With ลอยกระทง


Dearest Family,

The joy continues here in the Land of Smiles. This week was SO fun, I loved it! Loy gratong is a festival that happened to fall on my birthday this year! It's a festival where people put these things called กระทงs on the water that have candles on them. They are made from banana leaves and flowers. In the North they float things that are kind of like hot air balloons. It's a day off of work, too. So that day we got up and had District Meeting where the Sisters bought doughnuts to celebrate my birthday from Dunkin Doughnuts. Then we went out to dinner with Brother Pete and Brother J. They took us to a Korean BBQ place which are WAY popular here in Thailand. We stuffed ourselves full and then Brother Pete surprised me with a cake. I was then sung to by the performer at the restaurant. They made me stand up so everyone would see me. Then we went to see ลอยกระทง in the river. It was WAY fun! It was a great day all in all. I really enjoyed it a lot. It's weird to not be a teenager anymore for sure. It's also weird to think about the fact that on my 20th birthday I was 8,000 miles away!

Anyway, let's start with some CRAZY news first. There is this investigator named Lucky who went to Ubon to be a priest for 3 months. It was an agreement with his parents that he would do it. But he learned with the Elders before and loved it. The entire time he was there, he studied the Book of Mormon and prayed. He came back this past week and is he ready or what! He set a goal to be baptized on the 27th of December, but I wouldn't be surprised if he gets baptized before that. We reviewed Lesson 1 with him and he basically taught it to us. Then last night we went with Brother Mon to teach the 2nd lesson, the plan of salvation, and again, he taught us the lesson pretty much. He remembered LITERALLY EVERYTHING. And he loves it to pieces. He reads and prays everyday, asks really deep questions and LOVES the members. He called the members while he was in Ubon. He's living with a member right now. It's crazy! He's way funny and sweet! It really was a testament to the fact that as we strive to work hard, God will bless us. Lucky is just one such case. I was so touched by him as he told us about meeting the Elders. He told us that the day he met Elder Jarrett it was the "purpose of God". And now he's getting ready to be baptized. It's so exciting to see how much he loves it and how WELL he knows it. I have no doubt he will make a great member.

Then Egg! Egg sent me a cake for my birthday. What a great guy. He had his baptisimal interview this last week and did way great. He's good to go and ready to be baptized. And here's the other crazy thing... He asked me to baptize him! So my first baptism that I ever perform will be in a language that is not even my own. Luckily I know the words for the baptism in Thai! I was way shocked when he asked me but way excited. A little scary? Yes!! But exciting, very much so. We are getting ready for his baptism this week and for a fireside we are having on Sunday for newer members (0-24 months in the Church). Egg's dad is very sick in the Isaan, so we will be praying that he will be able to stay here to make this date.

And Prayad. He's doing great. He's really gaining faith, starting to repent and starting to keep the commandments. He loves it. He's so smiley and I can see a change in his actions and in his face. He's more full of light and happier. It's an amazing thing.

Max is still doing well. He's not quite ready to set a goal to be baptized but he does desire baptism and he loves learning. He's gaining faith each time we meet with him. He's changing too. We are hoping that Brother Golf will be a good example to him and help him along the way.

Tell everyone that Thai comes along very well. Of course I feel silly sometimes but it really has improved a TON this moves. People say I am speaking well but I don't know how much of that is actually true. Thai is an adventure. From using correct pronouns to vowel lengths and gramatical patterns, everyday is a new adventure. My comprehension-05t is getting way better. It's really a miracle.

Let me end with some things that I have learned this week. I have learned that God really does prepare people to listen about Jesus Christ. The message that He is risen changes the lives of people everyday. When we watched Finding Faith in Christ this week, I realized how much that means to the Thai people. How that hope can help them. The hope that we can be together as one eternal family forever is a miracle that changes people's lives. God gives us courage in spite of trials. Even if there are days where we get frustrated because we can't speak as well as we wish, God helps us to press forward with faith in Him and His promises. I have no doubt that God prepares a way for us to do the things that are hard. He prepares us to help those around us. Even if it's only a smile that we can offer, I know these simple things can change our lives. Charity has a power that is beyond that which we can comprehend. The power of God isn't found just in the majestic things, it's found in His love that He offers to us and calls us to offer to our fellow men.

This opportunity to be in Thailand reminds me of the frailty of life. One moment we go about and then the next our lives can change. Drug abuse, addictions, hardships, these all change everything. But the one thing that won't change is the love of God. In a world that is ever-changing, we can rely on that love. So when any of us fail to feel the worth within ourselves or fail to understand the reason behind our hardships, the love of God will be there for us. As Cherie Call says, when you need a shoulder bow your head and pray. I know that He lives and that Jesus Christ loved the world so much that he atoned not only for our sins but our heartaches, our sorrows. My testimony grows of that everyday. The message that He is risen gives us hope! I know He lives! Thailand is a land ready for this message.

God loves the Thais. I know I was sent here for a reason. And I can't wait to keep finding out that reason!

Thailand is still swell and I love every moment. Don't worry about me, this is the best thing I have ever or will ever do! I send you with my prayers and blessings.

I love you all so much,

Elder Jacob Newman

p.s.- Send my love to all my friends. Tell them their support is SO wonderful!