March 15, 2010
Hello Dearest Family,
This week I will be heading down to Bangkok for moves meeting. I don't know if I will be moving or not but I have a feeling that this might be my last week sending e-mail from Nongkhai. All four of us are heading down, with Elder Peterson heading down on Tuesday, a day before. We will leave here Wednesday night and get back Friday morning. The train is always an adventure - I can't ever really sleep that well on it but it's fun to be on a train in Thailand. Should it be my last week in Nongkhai, I will be sad, but I guess we will just have to see. Who knows where I could be emailing you from next week!
This week I really learned some valuable lessons from the most unexpected sources. We started off with P-day, which went well. We met with a new investigator named Pradid. His son is a Christian missionary in a different amphoe (province). We will have to see if anything comes of him. On Tuesday, we met with a less-active named Brother Tawng and he is spiritually more in tune it feels like. He didn't end up coming to Church this week but he's progressing. He drives a saam law for a living which is like a three wheeled car. The traditional ones are bicycle powered but the ones here are all motorized. After that we met with Ex who is doing really well. He's really committed to learning and desires to come to know God. He, unfortunately, couldn't make it to Church for some unknown reason but we will keep working with him. We also met with Yo and Jid who are slowly but surely coming along. We taught about keeping the Sabbath day holy but this Sunday they left early. We were a little disappointed that they only stayed for sacrament meeting. The good news is that they are attached to the members, in particular Brother Sitiwong. They want him to be the person to baptize them.
The main story of the week though is a meeting with Sister Laantaa, a less active. Sister Laantaa has been a member for over a year. But she hasn't attended Church since her baptism too regularly. She in her words is stuck on her friends more than Church. She says this every time we go to visit her. We saw her at her guay tiaw - a noodle dish - shop and talked. We read from the scriptures together and examined her desire to become more spiritually strong. She said something they struck me in such a profound way. She said, translating roughly from Thai, that she knows that Heavenly Father will forgive us every time. That He will give to us, if we ask. The question is, she proceeded to say, are we, as stubborn children, willing to ask or to accept his help? I thought about that quite a bit.
In reality, we all are children of God. But another thing we are is stubborn. God gives us all good gifts, gives us love and hope and the atonement, but how often do we, in our stubborn states say to God "I don't want it." I think we do this often. I know in my life, I have seen it. God has offered me peace of mind, forgiveness, purity, and often I have said to myself, I don't deserve it, which is just like saying I don't want it. The thing is that we don't really deserve it, but God loves us so much that He wants us to have it. We will make mistakes every day but I have come to see, we have to be humble enough to take God's help. Sometimes we find that we have challenges in life that just seem too hard but we won't take God's help.
I read a story from the Ensign about a mother who entered a hard time in her life and then had an experience with her daughter that changed her outlook. She didn't really rely on God during this struggle until one day she was bringing in groceries with her young daughter. Her daughter carried eggs and bread just fine but then she started to try to carry a milk jug and she couldn't lift it. Still she refused her mother's help, until she eventually said "Too heavy. Can't do it". Then she asked her mom to carry her and then she would carry the milk with her mom. God's just like that. How often do we have that milk jug sitting before us and yet we, in our stubborn nature, forget that God can lift us. God wants us to ask. He loves us so much that He gave Jesus Christ to help us lift that milk jug. Don't dely. Let God lift your milk jug - don't be stubborn and refuse God's help. Come to Him and just pour out your soul.
We planned for Jiab's baptism this Sunday. She's getting really close. She passed her interview and her baptism will be this next week. Her husband will be baptizing her. It's really exciting to see how her change happened. I also loved seeing how the words she used changed as she gained her testimony. Typically in Thai prayers, at first you will hear the formal word for I, khaphajaw, but as people gain more faith it becomes khaaphra?ong. Khaaphra?ong implies a servant to a royal being. It's a beautiful word that I have come to love in prayers. The language of prayer in Thai is expressed through royal words that are simply beautiful.
I have seen a lot of hope here in Thailand, granted, I have seen many disappointments but in the end, I don't really remember the disappointing things. I have been so grateful for the opportunity to be here in Nongkhai with Elder Peterson. He has been an answer to prayers and we've had a great two moves together. It's pretty crazy to think that when I got to Thailand, he came up here to Nongkhai to be branch president. Anyway, it's been amazing here. I don't know if I will move or not, but should I, I will long remember this magical place.
I've been so grateful for all of your support lately. I have come to see how the gospel blesses our families. I am so amazed that despite what comes our way, sorrow or heartache or pain, we know that we as a family will always love each other and be together. God's kindness will not depart from us and God will be with us forever and ever. Thailand continues to be a dream of a lifetime. And I know that I came here for a reason - I'm still working hard to figure that out but that will come. As long as we are serving God, it doesn't really matter if we fully understand.
Bless you all and remember to eat lots of Thai food!
Elder Jacob Newman