Monday, February 22, 2010

Sister Jiab- The Most Miraculous Week

February 22, 2010

Dearest Family,

I hope that all is going well for you all this week. Things are great up here in Nongkhai. The weather is starting to heat up with an odd exception this last Friday. The temperature dropped to about 75 degrees. It was freezing and I am not even kidding. I was shivering! We got home and the house felt cold too. For the first time ever, I wish I had long sleep pants. But that was just an odd happening on our part. Nongkhai is cooler than Bangkok typically but not that much cooler.

Things are just simply marvelous this week. If marvelous were an adequate description I think that would be it. Unfortunately, it isn't quite good enough. This week was simply amazing. It is possibly the most miraculous week I have seen in Thailand.

Zone Conference was pretty good. It's a long drive to Khon Kaen. But we had some good training on finding new investigators and we discovered that our schedule will undergo a massive change starting March 1st. It's actually an experiment to see how it effects how we work. We will get up at 6, go out from 7:30-1:30, study from 1:30- 4:00 then go out from 4:00-8:30 with meal time in there. 8:30 we will plan and 10:00 we will go to bed. I am really curious to see how it works. They brought up the point that really from 1:00 – 4:00 NO one is outside because it's the hot part of the day. And it's true. In the early morning, the town is bustling. You see people going to the market to buy their foods, men commuting to work, women putting their laundry out to hang in the sun, and children playing in the street. Besides that, Zone Conference was pretty good. It's always fun to see everyone from my group. In our two Zones (Udorn and Khon Kaen) we have Elder Crowley and I along with Elder Holt and Sister Akagi. They are all doing really well! Everyone looks so trim and healthy. I guess that's what you get from bike riding and lots of quality exercise.

Anyway, onto the big news of the week. So we got back from Zone Conference at about 5:00 and we had an appointment at the Church with Jiab at 6:00. She called to make sure it was still on and apparently she had stepped on a nail so she had to go get it fixed up and get shots at the doctor. But we met her at the Church and wow. It was an amazing lesson. We followed up on lots of things she was concerned with, namely the 10 commandments and knowing if God was there, along with her family prayer. She had kept her commitment to pray as a family, even praying in the car one day they forgot. I really felt her growing testimony so strongly! She all of the sudden, had all of her concerns resolved and came to the lesson and was... different. She also started using the pronoun Sister.

In Thai, when we talk about ourselves, we can use all kinds of pronouns. Technically I could say "Elder knows that Christ lives" and it would be the same as saying I know Christ lives or I could say Phii - older sibling- knows that Christ lives. Sister is a pronoun that sisters in the church use frequently. It was quite a noticeable thing.

She told us about how she's coming to know that God is there. She said there are so many things that have changed in her life since she started learning. Then she talked about how at first she said "I heard Brother Somluck talk about eternal families and being together forever. And I told myself mai aw- which means I don't want it- but then I started to learn and see how he changed" I saw the transforming power of Christ as her heart softened. She is such a dedicated person in everything she does. And so she will be getting baptized soon. I don't know what really changed her spiritual witness issue. I feel that as they prayed together, something changed.

After the lesson, Elder Peterson and I looked at each other and said "Wow. She's progressed a lot in the past week." The transforming power of the atonement can't be underestimated. It changed Brother Somluck and it's changing Jiab as we speak. The next day we met with her to review baptismal questions and she answered them from her heart. She is honest. Jiab is not one to lie, she will tell it to you straight out. I see within Jiab the fruits of our labors. Her small seed of faith began to sprout, then flourish and grow into something wonderful. She has desire to do good continually. She has a desire to be baptized. She now says she wants that eternal family for her and Brother Somluck. This one lesson, followed by another great lesson, made all the week of heat, false appointments (that's what we call them in Thai), and discouragement worth it. I think it's amazing to see how as we just simply work and go about our days, praying for our investigators, miracles just happen. God watches out for His children and takes care of their needs.

Yo and Jid are also doing great. They made the week worth it two fold. Our last lesson with them, we taught with Brother Terdsak. He helped so much to help them understand and he friendshipped them well. They are waiting to get baptized. They have faith. They are doing the things they should. They are following the commandments and I see within them much of what I see within Jiab. I see the seed of faith, once small, sprouting and growing slowly but surely. Granted, Jiab's seemed to sprout within the matter of a week.
God really blessed us this week. It so often works like that. We will go through times where it's just not exactly working how we want it to. Often we will have pain and wonder why. Often we will be rejected over and over again and wonder why. At these times, however, I know God is near. God loves us. He loves you and he loves the people in Thailand. Christ's atonement has infinite power to change both you and me. I know that Christ brings us true strength and because of Him, I have seen the most miraculous week in Thailand.

I really love you all and I know your prayers helped this week. Families can be together forever! Pray for Jiab to continue to gain that testimony.

Sending love and joy to America,

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, February 15, 2010

Faith is like a little seed, if planted it will grow

Feb 15 2010

Dearest Family,

I hope that all is well back in Utah and in other parts of the states. It's so ironic to think that you have snow and that Sonja is in record snow conditions. Here in Thailand it's just starting to heat up. This week was really hot. I never thought I would feel hot in February but here it is - the middle of February and quite hot! But it's been a good, if not great week so far. Despite the heat, we had some good times this week and enjoyed ourselves up here in Nong Khai.

I gave my first talk in sacrament meeting yesterday. I gave it in Thai on the atonement of Christ. It was about 17 minutes. I hadn't planned on speaking nearly that long but then we found out the morning of that the counselor in the branch presidency (we only have one counselor, his name is Brother Egg) was unable to make it to Church. So Elder Peterson said if I had more to say to go ahead and say it. So I went for it, without realizing it. Thus, Elder Peterson only had to talk for about 10-12 minutes at the end of the meeting. It was a fun experience. Definitely a bit stressful because it was in Thai but I really enjoyed it.

I mostly shared scriptures and talked about what the atonement means to us. I read from the Thai Bible (which as it turns out, sounds really pretty) and the Book of Mormon. Here's a funny side note about that - I was about to quote my first scripture (Jacob 4:11) when a sister in the congregation called out and asked to repeat the reference and say what it was about. It was a bit odd since whenever anyone else quotes scriptures they don't really seem to notice but they were intent on finding out where the scripture was. It was funny coming from this Sister also, Sister Oy. Anyway, that was a funny side note that made me laugh. Everyone seemed so stressed out to find out where the scripture was and what it was about.

I think most of the fish we eat here is from the Mekong River. I really wish that everyone could try something called plaa phaw (which means burnt fish). It's just a whole fish with spices and salt on the outside. You eat it with sticky rice and a nice spicy sauce. I actually didn't like fish before Thailand but plaa phaw opened a whole new world of fish. It's delicious.

Here in Nong Khai, most of the members are fairly average Thais as far as how well off they are. Most live in pretty modest, middle class living but then we have a few that are really well off (a car is a sign of wealth) and those who are a little poorer. Basically, Thailand living circumstances are simple. Thailand is second world but has most of the comforts of the first world. Like I have said in the past, Thailand feels like a different world where the modern and ancient collide. Many times I feel like I am in the 1950s while other times I feel like I am in these modern days. Thais don't really live super complex lives to me it seems. Especially out here in the Isaan, they really live simply. It's interesting to see how people will get out their mats and sit on the ground and eat rice together with their hands. Or sit on the ground to peel papaya for somtum.

Thailand is full of specialized labor too. One member in our branch sells chicken blood, like I have said before. You see tailors, cobblers, and all kinds of people who work in very specific trades. There are lots of repairmen. Lots of people work in the food industry too. But, the thing that I have noticed is that in reality, we are all really just so similar. We all have the same needs and wants, desires, hopes and dreams. And at Church, we kind of put off the outward appearance and wear the countenance of Christ. I love that. Of course, members are people and aren't perfect but at Church we learn together to grow and expand towards God. Church trains us for Zion. We realize that we're all different but that we somehow need each other deeply and intimately. Despite the fact that we might not all get along, we can learn to love one another at Church. We're all in this together really. Life is difficult but when we come to Church and embrace one another's burdens, we feel the love of God. We feel our souls growing knit together in love.

We are still working hard to find investigators. While it's been a bit of a struggle, I remember what Elder Olinger once said to me after a long day of inviting (that's what we call contacting/tracting here in Thailand. It's a much better title!). He said "Well... maybe there was something else we were supposed to learn today." I often ponder on that as we ride our bikes around or walk down the street. What lessons am I learning today? What should I be saying or doing today? That's so often the way life works. Sometimes we have the greatest plans, and they don't work out. But when that happens, what were we supposed to be learning that day? God has a plan. He knows what his children really need. And what we really need is wrapped in a lifetime of lessons. Each day is a lesson, as long as we look for it.And good things happen still!

Jiab is doing well. She is gaining more faith and expressed that in our last lesson with her. Her prayers reflect the language of faith. She has a testimony; she just needs to realize it now. We continue to work with her and getting her ready to covenant with God. Also, Yo and Jid are doing really well. Jid really loves the scriptures. She was talking about reading them and how they apply to our lives. I see glimmers of faith in her eyes. Yo is also doing well but shows his emotions less. With all three of these people, I have come to see faith like a seed. Growth of a seed is slow and steady and at first almost imperceptible. Then we look back and see where they have come from. The faith then yields fruit which is typically good fruit. I love that. I love seeing the fruits of our labors in the small almost imperceptible ways. I know that God is watching over us and that he cares for us as we try to help sprout that faith.

This week will be Zone Conference which should be good. I guess there is a possibility that I could be moving after this moves. Only time will tell.

Besides that, I don't know that I have much else. I'm healthy, happy and loving Thailand! It's such a blessing to be here and I feel so grateful to be a part of God's work. Like I said, I learn lessons everyday and love it. So many can't be communicated in words, they are more like feelings. I love you all so much and know that our family can be together forever! Please keep doing that which you know to be right and pray for opportunities to share the light of Christ with those around you! I love you all and pray for you daily.

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, February 8, 2010

Love and Christ


Dearest Family!

Greetings and salutations from the land of smiles! All continues to go well as the hot season approaches and we are enjoying Nong Khai. It's been a pretty good week. A bit fast and it's all a bit of a blur but it's been going really well.

It's crazy to think that in four days I will hit my 6th month mark in country! Being in Thailand is really such an experience. I feel I have learned so much but it has gone too fast! It's crazy, it's like a whirlwind. As Nicole said, you have two years to serve the Lord and the rest of your life to think about it. I thought about that this last week as I reflected on how fast it has gone. I feel so blessed to be here in Thailand at this time and to see wonderful things happening everyday. Granted, it's hot and there are lots of challenges, but that's where the fun comes in, right? Thailand is a magical place. I know I say that every week but I think about it so often here.

Thailand is full of temples. I am always surprised how many wads we see around here. Even in the middle of nowhere you will see wads that are ornately decorated with gold and unique Thai design. The other day we were riding past one and they started ringing their bells. I don't understand much of the Buddhist culture but it is beautiful and something that I really love about Thailand.

Nong Khai is pretty small and so most of our investigators right now have come through referrals. The branch here is built from referrals. They are the way missionary work works! When we introduce our friends to the gospel, it's the way that they come to see the sweet fruits of it. This branch is built from referrals from Mae Khlong (Mother Fluent) who is now living in Orem running a Thai restaurant called Thai Chili Garden. The owner, Brother Sitiwong, just returned from a trip to America. He speaks English very well and has quite a nice house in Nong Khai. He gave us a referral this week that we have been teaching named Taengthai (Cucumber). She is young but pretty interested. I love seeing the members share the gospel. It's really amazing to see how something that we take for granted like prayer is such a new and exciting concept to others. Teaching prayer to Thai people is one of my favorite things. I feel that prayer has real power.

I feel so blessed to be here in Thailand! It's way hot but I love it! I wish I could express my love for this place enough really. I have come to see these people as my brothers and sisters. I can't speak their language as well as I would like to but I love them so much! I love the beauty of their language, their smiles, their traditions. I think that as a missionary in Thailand I have come to see how as children of God, we really aren't all that different. Sure I am Christian and most of Thailand is Buddhist, they have darker skin and I am really white, but I have seen that we all have the same needs, the same desires. We love our families just the same. I love that. And that's the greatest lesson I have learned in my time here.

Anyway. Our investigators and other news! This week we did a lot of elimination of our old investigators. Pretty much we are down to our three main ones- Jiab, and Yo/Jid. Jiab is doing pretty well. She is searching for that spiritual witness. I don't know exactly how to help her gain it. I feel like she has a desire to do it but yet it is hard to see how to help her. I don't think for me it was necessarily an event that helped me understand that the Gospel was true but rather a journey. I think she, like many of us, is on that journey. She sees the positive change in her husband and wants that change to help their family. With her, I have pondered about how family prayer can be a blessing to families. I encourage everyone to pray as a family morning and night! It will strengthen us in times of trials and keep us closer as families. I know that it is a blessing to us all.

Yo and Jid are doing well but still also lack that spiritual witness. They see the good things but want to be more sure. We taught with Brother Sitiwong this week who they really look to as an authority for religious belief. It was great. In Thailand, the members CARRY the missionary work forward and I know that as they continue to step up and take their roles, they will see miracles in Thailand. They, as converts, carry the spirit so strongly. I have seen that here and I have seen that in Bangkapi. Thai people can really teach the gospel so well and in such a way that is understandable to Thai people. I love that there are so many Thai elders and sisters in the mission to help us press the work forward. They are such a valuable asset! I hope that one day they can just have zone conferences and everything in Thai because they are the bulk of the missionaries! One day!

As for other work this week, I feel that our visits to less actives and recent converts went well. I love seeing the strength of the recent converts here in Nong Khai. They are firmly rooted in the gospel and have testimonies that are anchored in Jesus Christ. I have realized that we must anchor our testimonies in Christ and in His teachings. As we do this, come what may, we will have the happiness that Christ has promised us. Bind ourselves to Christ and never let go. He is the Redeemer and He will help us. As we record our spiritual impressions and ponder upon him, I know that we will look back and see miracles. Everyday there are miracles, we just fail to look for them. Looking back, I have seen miracles in Thailand. Everyday! Whether it be as simple as understanding a conversation or the joy of finding someone who will listen to our message, miracles are all around us.

I don't know if I ever told you all how much I love you. I have gained such an appreciation for everything you have done for me. Every one of you is a blessing to me and I know that you are truly angels in my life. There are people who come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn and I feel that my siblings, my nieces and nephews, the extended family and my Thai brothers and sisters and my friends, the extended family of God are all blessings in my life.

I love you all. Always have Faith in Christ!


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, February 1, 2010

To Bangkok and Back Again


Dearest Family,

This week was a bit crazy. We started out Monday with a good P-day. Then we ended up having a meal at the house of a member family. But we first went to see a referral from another member with the other two elders. It was a great lesson that was definitely worth being there for. They are a referral from Mae (mother) Chuay (help). It is Mae Daeng (red) and Phaw Tia (short). They came to church three weeks ago with Sister Chuay and really enjoyed it. They have read a lot in the Book of Mormon actually. They have a young son and about a 20 year-old daughter. The other Elders technically teach them but we were able to join in on this lesson. Mae Daeng asked the question, "Why is there suffering in this life and how can we obtain comfort in this life for our family?" We briefly talked about how the Savior Jesus Christ knows of our sufferings and how the gospel will bring us comfort in our times of trial. Our families will be stronger and our lives, while still not perfect, will have a solid foundation. I really pondered on that lesson this week.

As we sat in their home I reflected on the humble circumstances we were in. Their house is one they built with their own hands. It's slightly in the open air with an outdoor kitchen, like many houses around here. They live a simple life. Thai people really don't ask much, they live with what they have. As I reflected on this, I felt touched to know that the Gospel can and will be such a blessing in their lives. They are very receptive and showed up to Church a half hour early this last week. While I am not the one that is actually teaching them, I was impressed by this event and really pondered on it throughout the week.

The dinner with the family of Sister Bon, Brother Therdsack, Sister Aew, Sister Phraew and then two other members Sisters Priaw and Jane was fun. We had, oddly enough, spaghetti and fried chicken with sticky rice along with pineapple (delicious) and oranges. Aew was baptized first and then the parents Bon and Therdsack followed. They are a rock of a family and really keep the branch moving. They asked Elder D to share a verse since they knew that he would be moving. He shared a good verse about the progression/ change that will be happening in Nong Khai with Thais holding the position of branch president. It was a good time and reminded me of how wonderful the branch up here in Nong Khai is with its strong members who are eager and willing to serve the Lord.

I think I mentioned that we were heading to moves meeting in Bang Khen this week. This was my first time riding the train down to Bangkok. Wow! That was an adventure. Since Elder D. was moving, the branch came to see him off at the station (a tradition for those who are in the Isaan/up North). We left around 5:30 p.m. Then the ride to the Rangsit train station in Bangkok began. The train is an adventure. There are so many people on it and lots of commotion. This time I slept on the top bunk, since they have two bunks that pull out. Turns out, the top bunk is not really comfortable at all so I may have gotten less than 4 hours of sleep. But then we arrived in Bangkok and met everyone who was going to moves meeting. My MTC group pretty much all came since almost all of us are in the Isaan/up north with a few exceptions-- namely Elder Fowles, Sister Larsen, Sister Young (who is actually now in Udorn which is about an hour away from here), and Elder Harris. Pretty much everyone else is outside of Bangkok. It was fun to see how all of them are doing in their various parts of the country. Everyplace is so different in its own special way.

Anyway, we then got on these things called songthaews to go to moves meeting. We arrived, exhausted. I played the piano and then we had a short training. It was the smallest moves meeting ever since it was only those who had to come. In the past, everyone from Bangkok came. This time only those moving or renewing visas came. Anyway, then we heard about moves and Elder Chiu (who is our new district leader and hence went Phii for the first time) got his new companion who is.... Elder Crowley from my group! It's fun to have him up here and he is way great. Anyway, after that we ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant and eventually got back to the train station after a few other things and headed back to Nong Khai. I slept much better this time on a bottom bunk. We go back on Friday, exhausted. It was a bit of an adventure for sure.

Thai food continues to be delicious. I tried Yum for the first time. It's a Thai spicy salad. I would recommend looking into it, if possible. Thai food is really so great- and eating rice everyday - heaven on earth.

As for other happenings this week, we managed to see Jiab. She is doing well but still lacks the spiritual witness. I will be praying extra hard for her on that. She understands so well and sees positive things since she has started learning but she lacks that spiritual confirmation. We are going to keep working with her. She's a very dedicated person and so I know it will come as she has the desire to seek God. We didn't get to see Yo or Jid but they came to Church this week. This week we are really focusing on finding new investigators since our pool has run a little dry lately. We are praying that we will find people who we are able to teach. This Sunday we actually got two referrals from members- one came to Church with a possible branch president candidate, Brother Sitiwong and the other is a family from a Sister.

In all, the week was really great. Thailand! Oh what a place in my heart it's earning every day. From the variety and contrast to the people, I cannot really get over the beauty and wonder of Thailand. And while missionary work is definitely very challenging here, we do see real changes in real people. I love to see that everyday. I love to see the way that we can become sons and daughters of Christ through His atonement. As Jack Christenson says we then have two Fathers- our Savior and our Father in Heaven- as we come unto Christ. Missionary work is very worthwhile. Come rain, come heat, come discouragement, it's all really worth it. We are reminded of that as we put forth our efforts and get out there and get to work! I know that the Gospel can change people for the better. I know that as we exercise faith in Christ, pressing forward with steadfastness in Him, we will see miracles in our lives.

If I could give any advice to anyone who wants to be a missionary, I would suggest the following: Learn how to love people. It's the only way. Missionary work is all about love and patience. You are going to meet people who reject you, who question your motives or who just aren't ready yet, but missionary work is about showing love. As a missionary, we wear the name of the Love of God -- Jesus Christ. If we want to be worthy of wearing that name, we must have love for everyone. Patience coupled with love will make up for any inadequacies we may have with the difficulties of the work. As we cleave unto God and show our love we will see the difference it can make.

Being in Thailand is an adventure. There's no place really like it on earth. And to be a missionary here is definitely quite the opportunity. Thai continues to be a fun challenge. It's a bit like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle. Since it is not Indo-European it has a different thought process for language construction. But that makes it all the more fun! I love Thai's specificness and yet no nonsense approach to language. Often words just make sense and then other times words are just perfect for what they are. I love it all. Challenges are the things that strengthen us, they refine us and bring us to a higher plane of existence.

Anyway, things are going great here. It's crazy how fast the time flies. Eight months seem to have passed by in the blink of an eye. How does that happen? It's great to hear the news from the family, keep up the good work everyone. I love you all and think of you often.

With smiles and prayers!

Elder Jacob Newman