Monday, March 1, 2010

Nong Khai continues to be beautiful and full of wonderful people.

March 1, 2010

Dearest Family,

The weather here is starting to heat back up again. Every day it gets just a little hotter. With this new schedule, however, it should be nice and cool. I imagine we will eat breakfast on the street from now on. We will probably be eating either muu ping (which is like pork on a stick with a sweet taste and eaten with sticky rice) or fruit. Anyway, this week was really great and
had some exciting and unique opportunities for me. Things just keep moving forward and Nongkhai continues to be beautiful and full of wonderful people.

Tuesday we met with Yo and Jid who are still doing really well. They are reading out of the Liahona, answering friends’ questions about the Church and demonstrating faith little by little. We taught with a Brother named Brother Terdsak, whose family are all members. He is the branch elder's quorum president and ward clerk (there aren't quite enough priesthood holders to fill all the roles needed, hence only one counselor in the branch presidency). Yo and Jid got along with him really well. Brother Terdsak works for the police and has a really great testimony of prayer and keeping the commandments.

On Wednesday we spent a lot of the day inviting. We didn't really see too many interested people but we had a fun time. We ran into a man whose son is a Christian missionary in a different amphoe (a division for provinces - there are many of them in a province). He offered us water and sweet potatoes to eat. Then we also home taught Brother Arm who is another great member. He has plans to volunteer for the army for 6 months then go on a mission. He's got a great testimony. A lot of this branch is younger people. In fact, in the early days of the branch many of those baptized were young children. Many are still active, many are not. Those who are, however, are pretty solid. They have testimonies and faith in Jesus Christ. I really like that idea of being rooted in the gospel. Our testimonies must be rooted in eternal truths not in cultural traditions or social expectations. Testimonies that are rooted in Christ and in eternal truths are testimonies that can endure the winds of life. I have seen how sometimes our testimonies become rooted in other things and when things don't work out exactly as we planned, we wonder why. I have come to the realization that God, while infinite in his power and scope, doesn't always protect us from hard things. If we didn't have hard things, there would be no point in life. Our purpose is to learn and grow.

Thursday brought a short meeting with Sister Jiab. She is doing really well. I felt touched as I have seen her change so much. She started out against the Church before I came here, and then became somewhat indifferent, until today she said that her family is complete. She says she wants her family to be an example for investigators. She prays often, she wants her son to learn the gospel to be a better teenager. She has faith in Jesus Christ. I love that I have been here to see the change. Conversion, like I have said, is not a sudden thing. It's more of a process. We are all working to build stronger foundations everyday of our lives. When we neglect to nourish ourselves, we often find ourselves starving spiritually. Read the scriptures daily - really. That makes the difference between a great day and a less than great day. We may not think we have anything new to learn from them but they will often teach us things that we didn't know they could.

On Saturday, I had a very interesting experience. I went with Elder Peterson to a conference in Udorn that was training for all priesthood holders/all auxiliary leaders. It turned out a man from Sakon Nakhon, who is from Alaska and doesn't speak an ounce of Thai, needed a translator. Well, I was the only one who could do it, so I did it for him. I was amazed that I could do it. I finally saw how my Thai has improved to the point of doing that. It was still really hard because, well, I understand the Thai but to put it back into English takes a lot of thought process. The meeting was good but I found myself more focused on the translation.

My favorite part, however, was the end where all the branch presidents in the district got up to bear their testimonies. They all speak as if they come from different backgrounds - from Elder Peterson, the missionary in his last moves in Thailand, to the Laos Branch President President Khampii (ironically means scriptures) to many others. Then they asked the district relief society president to stand up and bear her testimony. Imagine this - a 68 year old Thai woman, gets up and begins to bear her testimony of her 32 years in the Church. All of her 8 children are members along with her grandchildren. She's been endowed and has a legacy in the Church. I will long remember her voice - it was hearty and strong and so determined. She loves the Church and has served in it since 2 weeks after baptism to this day. Talk about dedication!

Then on Sunday, we had a wonderful Sacrament Meeting even though Elder Peterson ended up speaking for 20 minutes due to some complications with the speakers (didn't speak quite long enough and one didn't show up). Jiab was in Korat so she did not get a chance to go to Church this week, Jid was sick but Yo came along with Brother Sitiwong's referral Taengthai (cucumber).

What a time to be in Thailand! I love seeing the little seeds of faith coming forth. I love seeing how sometimes we can make a difference with God's help. With God's help we really can do anything. We can speak this crazy language, find people who are prepared and willing to listen, and help our brothers and sisters here in Thailand come closer to the Savior. I know that the Savior will heal all the broken branches of our own trees. I feel like at times we will have, periods where we have storms of life. But I know that the Savior will lovingly tend to us. He will heal us. His kindness will not depart from us! He will be with us forever and always!

Anyway, everything's great and I think you're all great. I pray for you all always and know that God will watch over you all. I pray that you all experience happiness and success in all you do!


Elder Jacob Newman

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