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

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