Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas and Other Events

Dearest Family,

Belated Merry Christmas! It was great to hear from you all. You all seem to be doing well and sound healthy and happy. I guess it could be possible for me to still be here in Nong Khai by the next time we talk.

There are many, many dogs in Thailand and many of them have rabies. My companion's last companion was bitten and was required to get shots at the hospital. It's no fun. The dogs are a bit more aggressive than they are in Bangkok so I have been a bit more careful.

Our district is just the four of us Elders in our apartment. We are in the Udorn Zone. I will have to go to a Zone Conference to see exactly who is in our zone.

The branch is really great. It's pretty small. We have about 40-50 people who attend weekly. I don't know everyone yet but they have quite a few 19-35 year old people. Years ago, the branch was opened in Nong Khai and stayed open for a while but then was closed because of lack of attendance. The members who were still active started attending Church in Udorn which is about a one hour bus ride to the south. The mission basically said that they would bring missionaries back if they, the members, could find enough of the old members to come back to church. So they did it. But a lot of the records were lost due to a flood (?) fire (?) or some other event, so some people were rebaptized and reconfirmed. The branch has some really great members who are long time members and a lot of great new members. The baptism yesterday was the baptism of a member's brother. I have never met the member but apparently he's fantastic. His name is Brother Arm. He is in Bangkok doing an internship. On Christmas Brother Ice was baptized. He's great. Members in Thailand are really special. Those who are as active as they are are truly great examples for all of us!

Christmas day we ended up having a fireside that went pretty well. We watched Joy to the World, which was good but my companion had to translate since we didn't have a copy in Thai. After that, we had the baptism which was awesome! We sang a special musical number in Thai, I Like to Look for Rainbows. He was very excited to be baptized and gave a good testimony. One of the speakers was amazing too. Her name is Sister L. She was the first member in her family and she worked to help bring her whole family into the church. Her parents are named Sister Bone and Brother Thursack. They are a great family and he has good potential to be the next branch president. After that, we had the Christmas party which was fun. They had Thai fried rice and lots of Thai treats. One of them was sticky rice with sesame seeds and something that made it orange. It was good. The party was a big hit with the members.

The day after Christmas we had a bit of a scare at the Church. Basically what happened is this: We taught an awesome recent convert named Sister Priaw and then she was waiting for her aunt to come pick her up while we taught another recent convert, Somluck, with his wife, Jiab, and their little daughter Bella. We were in the sacrament room and Sister Priaw came running in saying two people had run into the Church and one of them possibly had a knife and a gun after a little fight outside of the Church. She was scared. They ran into the bathroom but then we saw them leave. We thought that both had left so Sister Priaw's aunt honked her horn on her motorcycle and we escorted her out and then got the door to the Church locked. We went back to continue the lesson. But, we heard a loud gun-like noise outside. There was someone still in the Church. We saw them as we sat in the sacrament room. Jiab made some calls and we sat locked in the sacrament room. Jiab was really terrified. The police came and we also got a hold of Brother Thursack who is in a leadership position in the police. The front door to the chapel opens like a garage door from the outside so we waited until members of the branch got there, namely the first counselor, Brother Egg, and then slid the key under the door to him and we got out of the Church. When we came out, the Church was surrounded by police and members who had seen the commotion. In the end, though, it turned out all right despite the stress. The person who was in the Church actually had no weapons so we weren't in any real danger on that front. It's all a bit of a blur but that's basically what happened. No need to worry at all. They searched the building and he was found and questioned. The Church is secure and it's fine. Don't worry. I repeat, don't worry.

Besides that, the last couple of days have been going pretty well. It's a great time of year, however, to celebrate the birth of the Savior. That's been on my mind a lot the past couple of days. I think that being in Thailand really made me think of the real reason for Christmas. Possibly because it was the first year away from home for Christmas, but I realized how important it is to keep our Christmas along with our lives centered on Jesus Christ and his atonement. Although we may get presents on Christmas and think about the receiving of gifts, shopping, keeping up with holiday traditions, in the end it comes down to the fact that Christmas isn't about any of that at all. Christmas is about Jesus Christ. It is about his life and his power to help us and provide us with comfort and hope. It's a time to reflect on the blessings in our life. This year I feel particularly grateful for family, friends, and the blessings of good health and a wonderful life. This year I also realize how as we rely on God all things are possible! And even though we may be miles apart, as we pray for one another, we can feel that closeness everyday! (Just like Brother Egg said to me before I left). It's a blessing to know that we have a Father in Heaven who loved us so much that He provided a Savior to overcome the world. Because He overcame the world, we can too. Even though we may face challenges and trials, we can overcome the world. Every day we can rest from the pains of the world as we rely on Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven. What a blessing that is!

Thank you for all your support and prayers. I know that your prayers have been answered in my behalf.

I love you all and pray for you daily!

Elder Jacob Newman

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I just lost my entire email! Sad... No time! But sending love and Christmas wishes.

Note from Mom: Elder Newman lost he email this week before it was sent. But, he quickly tried to fill us in on his new situation. It's short but we will be talking to him on Christmas or Christmas Eve.

December 23, 2009

Dearest Family!

Dang it, I had a ton written, and I just lost all of it. I knew I should have used word pad! But everything is going great here in Nong Khai.

My new companion is Elder Peterson. He’s great!! He has two moves left in Thailand. He's been here for three moves. He's from Spanish Fork. He's funny, way laid back but also very skillful!

Everything's great. Nong Khai is way close to Laos so that's an adventure! We have a four-Elder house that's really nice. The branch has about 40-50 members that attend regularly. They are making the transition to member branch president here after Elder Peterson moves.

Listening to Laotian is like listening to a language that you think you should understand but can't. I can pick up concepts and words but not as well as in Thai. It's fun though! And the members speak to us all in Thai. They speak to each other in Laotian or Isaan. It has a completely different flow tone-wise and sound-wise. Speaking Thai after speaking Laos or hearing it spoken is a shift in gears for sure. Everyone speaks Thai like native speakers even though it's technically their second or third language.

We will be having a baptism, fireside and activity on Christmas Day.

Sorry this was so short. I lost my email. What a great week! A whirlwind for sure. The trip on the train was awesome. Remind me to tell you all about that.

I really see how much the faith of the members here can help the branch to grow! The branch was closed in Nong Khai about 10 years ago but brought back about 5 years ago because of the work of the members. I wish I could tell you more but time is limited.

Last thought for the day! Christmas is great. What a great time to be here in Thailand sharing the good news of Christmas. I am so excited to be here in Nong Khai. It has great members and this is a wonderful adventure for me for sure!

I will tell more in the email next week! As for now, we will talk to you on Christmas!


Elder Newman

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'm moving, Christmas in Bangkapi, and other wondrous joys


Dear Family!

This week has been super great. The weather is nice and sunny all the time in the city of angels. You can only vaguely tell that it's Christmas in the areas that have more foreigners.

This week was a week of goodbyes. That was a sad thing for me, but I think that it taught me a lot of good lessons. We saw Brother Boon again this week and he's doing really well. He has such a desire to keep the commandments and to repent. I haven't really ever seen someone quite like him. I remember one of my first days in Thailand we went to visit him. Granted, at that point I couldn't understand what was going on at all, but I felt his desire to come back to Church. And now to see him attending Church weekly has been such a blessing.

We went to the Christmas party at the Asoke building. Asoke is downtown! The heart of Bangkok! We took a "Khlong Monster" (Khlong with the wrong tone means fluent, khlong in this case means like the river/canal) or a boat to the event from a place called The Mall Bangkapi. We went with Brother Egg and two investigators. It was really fun to see everyone! I got to see Stop for just a second. He looks great and is always so friendly. I also got to see one of Stop's friends who I met on a day that I switched off in Stop's area.

Sunday was sad for me to think that it was my last Sunday here in Bangkapi. I will miss everything about this place. From our Bishop who works SO hard for this ward to all the members here who really demonstrate their faith, it's a GREAT place. I will miss everything about here. We had a fireside with a Sister missionary who finished a while back but served here in Bangkapi. She's a Thai sister who will be attending BYU Provo this winter. Then they asked both me and Sister Amnuaychoke to share our testimonies since we would be leaving. It was pretty emotional for me. And for Brother Egg, too. Brother Egg is really sad that I am leaving Bangkapi but we will always be friends! He gave a talk on the plan of salvation in sacrament meeting that day that was incredible! He speaks Thai so clearly! Brother Egg really taught me that people are prepared. I don't know if I ever told the story about how he came to meet the missionaries but it's a good one so I will tell it again.

Over a year ago, the Elders were giving out English fliers at the Mall Bankgapi. Egg saw one of the Elders greet a beggar and smile at him and he stopped and wondered, "What is that person doing and how can he be so happy?" He took a flier from them but unfortunately when he tried to call the number, the Elders’ number had changed! But he found them again a few weeks later. He went to learn English. The Sister who came back to Bangkapi for the fireside was the Sister who taught the advanced class that he was in. And he expressed a desire to learn about the Church. After that, he gained a strong testimony. He read the Book of Mormon. He experienced difficulties with his family accepting his decision and didn't quite know what to do. But in the end, he decided to press forward. He learned with the Elders on and off for about a year until he approached us and said he was ready. Then he set a baptismal date. His story teaches us this: What we do when no body is watching can sometimes bring forth miracles.

Yesterday, we saw Brother Chaliaw for the last time! I have never seen a man who is so humble and so willing to follow God's commandments. He has such a love for God and is so excited in his quiet way about our Father in Heaven. He shared his testimony of prayer yesterday and it was amazing! He doesn't say much but when he does, he speaks straight from the heart. It was hard to say goodbye. Even though distance may separate us, we are never far away. It's like what Brother Egg told me roughly in English "When we are far away from one another, we can still feel close to one another as we pray for each other." God bridges the gap. God gives us a chance to feel the love of our loved ones. I really know that.

I really learned this lesson again this week: Perfect love casteth out all fear. I know that's really how we can do everything. Sometimes we may think that we cannot love enough, but I know that as we put forth our best efforts, love can change everything. And I know that as we have the pure love of Christ and try to let our light so shine, we will be able to see the light of others around us.

Although my Thai is getting better I know that being a faraang, I won't ever speak Thai perfectly or chad like a Thai person. But the thing that is important is that the Spirit speaks Thai chad maag! That's a good lesson to remember, when we wonder if we can ever learn Thai.

I will miss here so much and I will miss Elder Olinger. He really is a great missionary! I know that he will continue to do great things here in Bangkapi and will see so many more miracles just like I have seen this moves. He has one moves left.

For some reason that I don’t fully understand, I came to Bangkapi. To see Brother Egg's baptism, to see the faith of Lucky, to see the members of the Church who truly love God has been an amazing experience. I have changed here. This week reminded me how much I really love Thailand! I say that every week but I mean it!

I love you all and miss you all! Thank you for your support and prayers.

Love,Elder Jacob Newman

p.s. - Take your guesses where I am going. There are three possible areas- the North, the Isaan or Bangkok. The North is Chiang Mai/ Chiang Rai. Isaan is the eastern part of Thailand and Bangkok is... well Bangkok.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bobby, Lucky and Thailand Christmas


Dearest Family,

Greetings from the land where in December it feels like a Utah June! Things are going pretty well here in the land of smiles. I have been a bit sick the past couple of days, but nothing to worry about at all. I am already starting to feel better. I think it was just a little bug of some sort.

Before I forget, next week we will be having P-day on Tuesday since moves will be on a Wednesday. Which, very strange. There are 14 missionaries leaving so areas will need to be switched around. They are closing many Elders’ areas and at least one Sisters’ area as they are now downsizing the mission. By the end of next moves, there will be less than 100 missionaries in the mission.

Unfortunately, this week was full of appointments that fell through and problems in contacting our investigators. We are still having a hard time finding new investigators. Despite all of that, as we press forward, we see that everything works for our good. And there were things that made it all worth it.

First of all, we had a really hard day earlier last week. We had been out inviting all day, tired and about ready to give up. But we decided to go visit Max, Brother Golf's friend, since we hadn't been able to contact him and he didn't show up to our last appointment. We dropped by Brother Golf's house, called Max and asked if we could talk to him. We talked to him, shared a short thought from the scriptures and then asked him about baptism. He told us that ever since we set the goal for him to be baptized, he has been working to live the word of wisdom. He's also been working to live other laws that we technically haven't taught him yet. He expressed how excited he was about baptism and how he is eager to be baptized. He said that having a goal for his baptism has changed everything.

Lucky continues to do great and is really eager to be baptized. He finished the Book of Mormon the other day and now he's asking great questions about the D and C. He's so great! He has a lot of faith and really loves to meet with us. I have no doubt that he has been prepared for a long time.

In other good news for this week, Brother Egg got to bless the sacrament for the first time this last week. He did it like a pro! Also, he has been asked by the Sisters’ investigator who will be baptized this Sunday to be the person who will baptize her! He's way excited. Yesterday he hit his one mark month since his baptism. It's been so amazing to see Egg's journey into the Church. He's such an example of someone who truly loves the Gospel and desires to serve. He has been asking us lots of questions about what it takes to be a missionary because he has plans to be one in the future. He seems like he really has a desire to do missionary work!

We have also been working with a former investigator named Bobby. He's a bit perplexing and I don't know what to do with him exactly but we will see where he ends up going. We will have to see what happens with him.

We had a rather sad experience this week. Sister Amnuaychoke has not been feeling well. We had a district meeting on Saturday to plan for the Christmas party and she fell very ill. We had to grab a taxi to take her to the hospital. She is out now, but is still not feeling very well. It's been a hard time for her. She is a Thai sister who has lived in Hong Kong most of her life but came back to Thailand to serve a mission.

A lesson that I learned this week was a quote that came from the Emma Smith movie that I really liked. She says something to the effect of "Strength isn't something you have, it's something you find." I think that's so often true in our own lives. So often I think we experience heartache, sorrow, disappointment or rejection, and we view it as something negative for us. But strength is not something we simply have; it's something we find in all of these experiences. Lately, I feel as if I have to rely more and more upon God and find new love that I didn't know I would need. Especially as Christmas approaches in a land where reminders of Christmas are few and far between, I feel particularly grateful for the new hope that Christmas really brings. It reminds me of the Cherie Call songs about Christmas quite a bit. When we need that strength that can only come from Jesus Christ, I reflect upon the song she sings about the little boy giving something that was from his heart. And then she compares it with us. She says something to the effect of "I told him it was broken, but it's all that I have.... And He said it was just what He wanted... It's was my heart..." I think that's the real spirit of Christmas- giving our heart, even when we can't imagine how we can give anymore. I know that as we give our heart, God sees our efforts and blesses us. God doesn't give us any challenge we can't bear. His kindness will really not depart from us. I have seen that more times than I can count.

Some 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ came to earth in the most humble of circumstances. The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, was born amidst animals and hay. In the most humble circumstances, the condescension of God is made manifest. He lived a perfect life and yet was scorned and scoffed. But through it all, He lived so that we might live again. He came into the world to take upon us our sorrows and to help us find that strength that we all so earnestly seek. Christmas time is a reminder of all that God has done for us. And to be here in Thailand sharing the knowledge that we have a Redeemer, that we have the ability to overcome heartache and sorrow, that the grave is not the end of our existence, is one of the greatest blessings that I can think of this Christmas time.

And so everything goes well! Despite challenges and trials and lots of hard work, it's so fun to be here. Perfect love casteth out all fear. I know that's the truth, the love of Christ can cast out all fear, I know it can! I know it can.

Anyway, I love you all and pray for you daily. Remember, Thailand is a special place with the best people ever! =)

With love and prayers,

Elder Jacob Newman

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lucky, A Christmas Party and Other Random Circumstances

December 2, 1009

Dearest Family!

This week has been a good week really. It seems like we have had so many random happenings this week, as usual but it's all a great time! The weather here in Thailand is so nice right now! And Thailand, of course, continues to be the happiest place on earth (a title previously held by Disneyland). The Thai continues to come. This week I felt a lot more comfortable with the Thai even if I was a bit confused yesterday in a lesson about the Word of Wisdom. Granted, if I don't know the words in English for specific drinks that we might not even have in America it's probably a given that I don't know them in Thai. But everything is going really well, we've seen some great stuff this week that really reconfirms the fact that we are guided.

Thailand's fruit is incredible. I have been eating a lot more fruit lately. Seriously, it cannot be compared. It's so sweet and delicious. The other day I had coconut for the first time in Thailand. It was amazing. Pineapple is good here in Thailand, who would have ever guessed? But it's only good fresh here. It's not really good on pizza or anything like that still. Speaking of pizza- here's a funny fact about Thailand. They eat ketchup on their pizza here! Everything to eat here really is so great. Thailand has food everywhere that you really couldn't find in the USA. Some of my favorite things include muu ping (which is like toasted pork and you eat it with sticky rice), the fruit, and anything with spice. The spice is the best part of it all.

If Thai food isn't spicy it's not nearly as interesting. The spice brings out all kinds of flavor that you can't get otherwise. People who refuse to eat spicy, refuse to enjoy the best parts of the food! Little Thai children eat really spicy too! It's pretty crazy. If you go to the Isaan it can get up to 20 peppers pretty quickly and it's pretty normal. Most Thai people don't even count really, they just throw a bunch into the pestal and mortar and grind away.

We are having a Christmas party, which we will be invovled in the planning of. We are setting up something that talks about what Christmas is about. It should be interesting to help the ward out to get things set up. I didn't ever realize how much planning activities take.

Onward we go! Let's talk about some great stuff that happened this week. The lesson of the week is: God pours down miracles even on the days where all your appointments fall through. This Thursday we had our long planning session and we had plans to do a lot of great things this week. Of course, plans always fall through but sometimes we get a chance to learn instead.

On Thursday and Tuesday of this week we taught Lucky. Lucky is a lesson in and of himself. A sister that was in my district when I first came here told us that one of the most important lessons we can learn as missionaries in Thailand is not that we are called to prepare people to receive the Gospel but that there are people who are READY to receive it. Lucky is just such a case. Every time we visit with Lucky, I feel as if he has been prepared for years and years. His knowledge and testimony of the Gospel is tremendous and almost impossible to describe. He really has so much knowledge about how things work and so much desire to serve/attend Church. The best thing about Lucky is his sense of humor. He says so many things that make us laugh and that cause us to think. He knows the Book of Mormon SO well. He is working to sacrifice to make sure that he can get Sundays off to go to Church. He desires baptism so badly and desires to serve Jesus Christ. Lucky has been such a blessing in my life, to see his faith and see his courage to do that which he knows to be right. It's amazing to see how people change and to see how God really does work in the lives of people.

We also got to see Brother Boon. Brother Boon is another person who really has changed my life in such a profound way. He is coming back on his own and he desires to keep the commandments, to have the faith and testimony and to do that which he knows to be right. He has strong desires to serve. He has a love for the teachings of Christ. He is an amazing example to me. I cannot wait to see what happens with him! He will be such an asset to the ward and to the Church in the future. And to think that after 14 years of inactivity, he decided to come back. I often wonder how many members there are in Thailand just like him, who maybe want to come back but don't know how. It all started when the sisters went to seek out his 11 year old nephew who was on the 24 month list. It goes to show you that at times we may often think that people are lost, but God's eyes truly are on the sparrow.

Friday and Saturday were days where our appointments fell through! So we spent a lot of time inviting. We didn't really see anything from that but we kept trying. The same thing happened on Monday for the first bit of the day. We had been inviting since about 1:00 in the afternoon with no one who was interested when we decided to go to a park that we had been to many times before. At first, there was no one interested at all. Then a miracle happened. Elder Olinger went up to talk to someone who was exercising while I stayed close by reading a sign in Thai, practicing my reading skills. While I was reading, I was approached by someone who was shocked and delighted that I could read Thai. He spoke very good English and was very nice. I told him what I was doing in Thailand and then all of the sudden he expressed a great desire to come to learn English with us and to also learn about Christianity. His name was Nu. And while we have not yet had a chance to meet with him or to see him at English, since this just happened on Monday, it was a miracle. And also, it turned out the guy that Elder Olinger had talked to was interested too. I think those days were definitely learning days. I realized that no matter how much rejection we get, there's always hope waiting around the corner.

We got to meet Bawb at his house. He's not really progressing that much but we are going to keep working with him and see if we can get his wife involved in the teaching. We are praying that he will open his heart and that his wife will too. We met his two year old son who is adorable! We feel that as we put our trust in God, we can and will see miracles with him.

Prayad is still doing great! He told us yesterday that he has been talking to all of his children to let them know that he is going to join the Church. We were very surprised by this, to say the least. But he really does get it. He really loves the scriptures and has a testimony. He loves meeting with us and he has changed so much since the first day that we met him. He should be getting baptized next moves. And sadly, I don't know that I will be here for his or Lucky's baptism but I am so grateful to think that I have played a small role in their teaching.

So what do I learn? I learn that often we have to have the harder days. That sometimes we will feel frustrated and inadequate, but in the end, that's not what's really important. What's really important is the one soul that can be touched. It reminds me of the story that Christ tells about seeking after the one lamb. There are many lambs in Thailand. There are many days where we will not have any appointments that go through, that we won't have anything happened as planned, and yet, something always happens to remind us that it is worth it. And that's the best part of it all! Of course it's hard, but it's the most worthwhile thing possible. To see the joy that can be brought into the lives of the Thai people through the atonement of Jesus Christ is incredible. To see that God lives everyday, that's the best lesson we could ever learn. And to see how much God really does love His children, that's a fact that I cannot deny.

I love this place more and more everyday. It's just so fun to be here. It's so fun to talk to people, to learn about their lives and to see how life is different for everyone but to also see how God can help everyone. We all really have the same needs when it comes right down to it. We all desire that love and that compassion that comes from Jesus Christ and God. I know that love changes us everyday. And what a great opportunity to be in Thailand to experience that changing power.

Thailand is a special place with a special people. Of course, I say that every week but every week is a greater confirmation of that. I think one great thing that I learn from them is the true meaning of charity and love. They really do have that gift from God. They will do anything to help you, no matter what the circumstances.

Anyway, I hope that all is well with you my beloved family. I pray for you all and hope that all is well. Please send my love and thanks to all for their support. I feel so blessed by everyone.


Elder Jacob Newman