Feb 15 2010
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