Monday, March 22, 2010

Chiang Mai

March 22, 2010

Dearest Family,

Hello family and loved ones! I hope and pray everything is going well for all of you. And, no I am not losing weight anymore. I have leveled out at about 70 kilos. None of my clothes really fit, but I did get that new suit cut.

So this week was a bit... unexpected? Is that the right word? Probably something close to that. Let's start off with my last little bit in Nong Khai and then move on.

Ever since Elder Crowley came to Nongkhai, I kind of wondered how it was going to work out due to the fact that we were in the same group. I suspected that one of two things would happen - either I would leave or we would become a threesome together. This last week, as we had many events to see Elder Peterson off - family home evenings/dinners at the home of first Sister Bone and Brother Terdsak and then the new branch president's house. I came to realize that I would be leaving. It hit me as I sat there, as I rode past landmarks in my area and as I talked with the other two Elders. Monday we spent our day packing... well... Elder Peterson did. Then Tuesday came - the day we get the moves phone calls. It became official. I was moving and Elder Crowley and Elder Chiu would be staying. So I packed my bags that day and Elder Peterson left for Bangkok. It was a bittersweet goodbye - Elder Peterson was an amazing guy and did such wonderful things for all of Thailand. When he left, I was left with the other two Elders. We taught English and then headed home. The next day we finished up packing. I showed them around my area in the morning, told them what they needed to do to get ready for Jiab's baptism and taught Jiab. Jiab has seen a lot of changes in her life. I see in her face, a changed person. From the first day I met her, I remember how indifferent she was towards the teachings of Christ. I saw how, slowly, but surely, that all changed. I saw how she started to pray with greater intent, how she liked coming to Church, how she expressed her faith in the Savior.

When we went to the train station with Sister Adchara, I looked back at the house and felt sad. But I knew a new adventure waited for me. We arrived at the train station and the members saw us off. I said goodbye to some memorable members from Sister Noyna (Custard Apple) to Brother Troy to Sister Bone and everyone in between, I realized how much I would miss the faith of the members and the joy of Nong Khai. We got on the train and I said goodbye. Thus ended my short time in Nongkhai.

We took the long train ride to Bangkok. I was tired by the end of it. I can never sleep on the train. We arrived in Bangkok at around 6:30ish. Then we got in the trucks to take us to moves meeting and we arrived at the Pakkret chapel. I put the dark blue tape on my bags and waited. Moves meeting started and President Smith gave a short talk. President Saamaad- the secretary of the mission and a district president- just passed away in a car crash on the way to a funeral. It's a huge blow to the mission. He has served faithfully for years. His children are still in serious condition from what I hear. Life is so fragile. That's a realization I make almost everyday. Life is precious and fragile.

Then we got to the moves part of the meeting. President Smith described me as a "well-traveled missionary" and announced that I would be going to Chiang Mai with Elder Day. I was shocked. We rode the train up here and it was majorly delayed. We kept going backwards and stopping. Something first about the engine and then something about another train.

Two words: Chiang Mai. Words to describe it? I don't really know if you can! It feels so different from anyplace I've ever been before. Granted, it's still Thailand but it feels so different from the Isaan and from Bangkok. It feels like... Chiang Mai. There are tourists everywhere, one way streets abounding, Chinese influence that's prevalence surprised me, a beautiful Church building, and green everywhere. The weather is cooler than in Bangkok or in Nongkhai and the people all speak Thai rather than Laos. It's weird to be on the street and hear Thai again. Granted, they do have northern language up here but that's mostly spoken inside of homes. The branch is HUGE. This past week there were 90 people there and they said it was small. Usually, there are about 120. I was so impressed with how simply amazing the branch really is. Wonderful talks, great lessons and lots of really nice members. I feel so grateful to be here! As I reflect back on where I have been, I can't help but think about how blessed I've been. I feel God's hand in where I've come for sure. We live really close to the church which is close to a place that's called the walking market in Chiang Mai, also close to Wad Phrasing.

As for my new companion, Elder Day! He's great! He's from Springville UT. He's funny, great at Thai and is a really fun guy. He's served in Nongkhai too, actually. We live with the Zone Leaders, Elder Brown and Elder Perry. The house is pretty nice, it's literally right next to the Church. Companion wise, I have been way blessed. Every companion has something new to teach me. God knows what we need and who we need in our lives.

Wow! Thailand is just fantastic. I have loved this past week even though it's seemed like a blur. I have had great studies in the Book of Mormon and scriptures this week. I really encourage all of us to keep a study journal. I found this week as I used that more effectively; I saw great help from God in understanding the scriptures. At Church, I felt the power of building our foundations upon Christ and upon the simplicity of the gospel. I came to realize some things about Thailand and about myself as I moved up here. I came to see more clearly how Thailand is different from the rest of the world when it comes to preaching the gospel. Some realizations still come though. And as they do, I realize that my mission so far is a journey of discovering myself. Someone here told me that the reason they think they came to Thailand is to convert themselves more deeply. I feel much the same. We just simply don't see many baptisms here in Thailand. However, I think as I have served here, I have seen myself come to Jesus Christ. I have seen how I have had to humble myself to heed his call. I know that often we will be faced with situations where we are simply just inadequate. That's why we need the Savior. We don't just need Him when we sin; we need Him when we're weak. And He will carry us. Right now we are going to be working here in Chiang Mai to find new investigators. I hope and pray that as we do so, we will be led to those who are longing to come unto Christ. Often, these people don't realize that they long to come unto Him. But they seek for something in their lives that only the Savior can bring.

Anyway, I love you all. Thailand's amazing and I can't wait to serve here in Chiang Mai.

God bless you all,

Elder Jacob Newman

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