March 29, 2010
Chiang Mai. Ah! It's the best. I have fallen in love with Chiang Mai so quickly. This place is different from everyplace else in Thailand. First of all, there are tourists everywhere. There is so much Chinese influence along with a great deal of Burmese influence. It's funny to see how the signs for traffic, temples, and other places have both Burmese and Thai written on them. Chiang Mai is beautiful too. The skies are so blue and the people are so happy. Granted, some of the tourists give us a little bit of a hard time for being here in Thailand. We got chewed out by a 50 year old man on a motorcycle the other day. That was a little bit of a shock for me. Typically, here in Thailand, if people aren't interested, they are super cordial about it. I can only remember a handful of times where people have gotten "mad" at us. But, we have to take into account that getting mad as a Thai would just be like us getting slightly frustrated. Sad to say, but not everyone is as nice as Thai people are!
We had Zone Conference this week. What a great time! I had fun trying to translate for President and Sister Smith for the Thai elders who sat in front of me. Our Zone Conference focused on our purpose as missionaries - to invite others to come unto Christ. I enjoyed this Zone Conference the most out of all that I have had in Thailand. It was small - there were only 12 of us - that's our Zone. It felt really personable. I feel refreshed and eager to go out and help people come closer to Jesus Christ. The Zone Conference also reminded me of the biggest change that I think Thailand has brought for me - my conversion to Jesus Christ. Since coming to Thailand, my faith in the cleansing power of the atonement has developed beyond my wildest dreams. That change and the influence of companions, along with seeing how we can be instruments in God's hands, are the greatest lessons.
I have seen so many miraculous things already that I can't wait to see what my stay in Chiang Mai will bring me! We are seeing some progressing investigators, we are finding new people and we are working with the Branch to really get things off the ground. Chiang Mai has a goal to become a stake in 10 years. That would mean two wards in Chiang Mai, one in Chiang Rai, one in Lampung. It's a goal that the members are really excited about.
The membership here is incredible. Multigenerational families are the roots of the branch. The branch is full of members who are endowed, returned missionaries, and new converts who are missionary age. There are many active priesthood holders and many great members. People raise families in the gospel in Chiang Mai. Many of the members here are from the 1970s and their children and those children's children are members. The family is the beating heart that keeps Chiang Mai branch strong.
We've been working on finding new investigators this week. We've found a lot of people and we're going to be working with them. We continue to work to find new people who will be willing to listen to us. As Elder Day and I work together with the Spirit, miracles will happen! Smiles on our faces and a song in our hearts and Chiang Mai - it's a wonderful time to be in Thailand.
This week we met with a man named Jo, a friend of a member, and I thought about humility. His wife left him and took his daughter. He's been drinking to avoid the pain. But he said as he prayed, he felt that God was there. He felt that God was willing to help him. As we talked to him, he expressed how in the past, he was... hard hearted. I thought about how as we give our hearts to God, something that God asks of us - a broken heart - we see how He stands ready to help us. It's not that we earn His help; it's that He loves us. As his children, He wants to help us. I also thought about this intimate relationship a lot this week. In Thai, I love walking around to people and saying hello older brother, younger brother, mother, father - these are how you say you in Thai depending on how old someone is. We are all part of God's family and in Thai we are all quite literally family. Thai is such a close language.
We've also been working to encourage the youth to serve missions. I am so grateful that I made the decision to do it! In the past, it wasn't on my radar at all. Actually, if you had told me that I would serve a mission, I probably would have laughed. But, this is the single best decision I have ever made in my life. And I never want to forget that. A mission isn't about the number of baptisms or the numbers of anything; it's about seeing the power of God in our lives. I understand the gospel so much more, I know what I want from life and I feel so close to God. While I'm still not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, my mission has taught me that the development of the soul, of the relationship between us and God is the greatest, most complex but ultimately most rewarding quest of our lifetime. So, any one who has doubts about going on a mission should reconsider. I'm not going to say it's all roses because that would just simply be a lie but I will say that it's simply worth it. I know it's a big social pressure in Mormon culture to do it so a lot of people feel pressured. But really, it's just the thing that God wants to bless us with. Everyday, we get to go out and wear the name of the Savior and be a witness of Him. And it's so much fun! I love it.
Anyway, I love you all. I'm healthy and everything's going great here in the wonderful place! I hope you all continue to do well. Hope you all enjoy conference!
Elder Jacob Newman