March 8, 2010
This past week was a historic week for the Church in Nongkhai as we got a new branch president. But let's go over the rest of the week first and let you all know how things are going.
This week started out with a great Monday morning. We started off the day hoping to go golfing but instead we went mini golfing which was about a 12 kilo ride away from the city. We got there and played for free. We also got some of the best pictures ever! The fields are so lush and green. I have never seen anything greener in my life. We were right behind a member's house and he just happened to show up on his way to work as we were taking pictures. He said hello and we all laughed at how ironic it was that he came. That day Jiab also interviewed for baptism. We knew beforehand that she would have to interview with a member of the mission presidency so we did this interview to make sure everything else was set to go. It was Elder Chiu's first interview and he did great! She also did really well too.
On Tuesday, Elder Peterson did some interviews in the morning and after that we went out and invited. We are still having a slightly hard time finding new investigators but we press forward. Ultimately, in the end, it's the effort we put forth that's the important part, not the actual numbers. The number of souls isn't the important thing, but rather the soul itself. We see people who come from different backgrounds everyday, people whose lives are all so different but yet we find commonalities in them all. We see within each of them, a child of God, no matter what their situation is.
I am reminded of Professor Sederholm at BYU when he talked about his experience on a Canadian subway where he just all of the sudden felt an intimate connection to all those around him as children of God. I have seen that many times in Thailand. I see that almost every Church in Sunday. I look around and realize that I am surrounded by people 8,000 miles away from my home, who all share the desire to follow Jesus Christ. I am among the children of God. What a powerful thought! We have a divine heritage and a divine future. We can't ever forget that- before we speak harsh words, remember who we are talking to! We are talking to someone who is the son or daughter of the King of the Universe! In Thai the royal word for son and daughter means prince and princess respectively. When we say that we are sons and daughters of God, we are expressing our royal heritage and our royal future. Never forget the value of every soul!
That same day, we taught Yo and Jid, who are both doing very well. We taught with Brother Sitiwong who has lived in America, in Orem, and formerly ran the Thai Chili Garden. He and his Laotian wife, Sister Sitiwong (the only people in Thailand I know who go by Brother Last Name and Sister Last Name. Even Missionaries are Elder First Name and Sister First Name), are great members here in Nongkhai who helped Yo and Jid now set a goal to get married in the temple!
Wednesday we had a fascinating experience. Earlier last week, we met a potential randomly again named Chay. He was working at his repair shop when we invited him. We met him on Wednesday and proceeded to discover, he's not Christian, but he prays to God and also knows a LOT about Christ. He told us about how Christ was baptized. That's not a story that most Thai people know as well as he did. It was a great lesson and we will have to see what comes of him.
Thursday was really fun! We went to do service at the house of an investigator family of the other Elders, named Phaw (father) Tia (Short) and Mae (mother) Daeng (red). They needed a big pile of dirt spread around their house. They live in such simple circumstances and Tia has been out of commission for a bit since he hurt his leg. After that, we ate burnt fish wraps with the members. Basically it's the whole fish cooked then served with lettuce that you use to make your own wrap and a bunch of little vegetables and some sweet peanut sauce. Sister Nang made the fish for us. They also had coconut treats. It was great to see how that service helped their family, softened their hearts and made them even more receptive to when Elder Crowley and Elder Chiu went to teach.
Friday saw switch offs with the zone leaders. We did lots of inviting, found some good potentials, taught Sister Priaw about making prayer more meaningful, and attended correlation. That day, President Smith also came up to Nongkhai and interviewed two Laotian possible missionaries. They may start serving in June. Anyway, we saw him and Sister Smith- who was taking pictures with “Flat Stanley” for her grandkids- Stanley went to the Mae Khong river. Then he also interviewed Brother Sitiwong, which I only found out later.
Saturday we had a lot of lessons with some potentials that we found on switch offs. The one I want to talk about is a man named Egx ( think X). Elder Peterson and Elder Brown were inviting another man at a table in the middle of an apartment complex when a large man with no shirt came out and put his shirt on and asked who he needed to talk to in order to be cleansed from sin. They made an appointment for the next day. We went to him and we saw that he was humble and willing to learn. When we finally got him to pray, he was a little scared at first, he prayed and cried out to God. I felt the Spirit strongly as his heart, laden with pains that I don't know, cried out to God and asked for comfort. I realized that so often our prayers are the same because we have done it so much but with him, it was his first time crying out to God. He was desperate to communicate.
It made me think about how we talk to God. Are we casual? Or do we ponder the fact that we are talking to a supreme being? Brother Nui, who helped us teach Priaw, told us that when he talks to God, he doesn't really ask for that much, he just likes to talk. I think that's what God wants. Of course, God is willing to help us but I think He really just wants us to talk. That's the important thing- talk to God likes He's right beside you. Don't just give a rote prayer, actually talk to God.
Sunday we got a new branch president. President Sitiwong was installed as Branch President with Brother Egg as the counselor. Elder Peterson is now released with a week left! Fast and Testimony meeting was good- lots of great testimonies that really made me think. One talked about the 10 virgins, another talked about the different laws of God, and another was given in Laotian.
Anyway, this week was just really great. I think the most valuable things we learn as we serve missions are the things that are simple. I think we learn a lot about ourselves. We change. We see how people around us change and then we go out there and try to change the world. Besides that I am so grateful for my family who I love so much. I love you all SO much! I appreciate you so much more since I am here now. I pray for you all daily and know that God will watch us. Remember to do the things that are right and to always have love for everyone!
Elder Jacob Newman