Wednesday, April 28, 2010

This Week Is Moves

April 27, 2010

Dearest Family,

Things have been a bit crazy this week. Our P-day was technically yesterday but we had a problem at our house. We didn't have water the entire day so we had to try to figure that out. It was a bit of a stressful experience. This house here in Chiang Mai has had problems with the water ever since I’ve been here. And, I forgot to tell you that this week is actually moves week. So it's been a bit crazy to say the least. But it's been a great week. I love it here so much. Chiang Mai is the best place on earth!

Sadly, Elder Day is going to be moving. Moves week is always such a bittersweet week. I will miss Elder Day for sure. I feel that he has been such a blessing in my life. He has helped me so much with Thai, teaching and everything in between. Most of all, he helped me to see myself in a new light and to have more confidence in myself. Through him, I have seen the true love of the Savior. His love for the Thai people shines. He is an amazing man. Elder Day is going to be a great zone leader. (He got a call earlier this week about it.) Our moves together has gone by so quickly. I can't really believe it's over.

This week I had a great switch-off with Elder Perry. (He will be returning home to Sandy this week.) We taught a lot of their great investigators and found some great new ones for them too. It was fun to see another side of Chiang Mai that I don't know as well.

We also saw a man named Luy, a less active, later in the week. He felt forced to go to Church by his mother. It was sad to see this man, who is so debilitated. He is crippled by disease and also so sad. I felt sad to see how people drift away from Christ and forget that Christ is the reason for everything. We need to all remember that when life gets hard. Christ is the reason we do EVERYTHING.

We also taught Brother Off. Brother Off at this time is struggling to keep some commandments. We taught him a lesson about diligence. As we taught him, I looked into his eyes and I realized how much love I felt for him. Brother Off is an amazing child of God who has such potential. I have come to realize how important that is. To LOVE. To see people as who they are. I want to help these people so much. I know I can do it through God's help. Somehow. Someway.

Anyway, Thailand continues to be amazing. Sorry about the delay. I love you all so much. Don't ever think I forget about you because I can never forget the people I love the most.


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, April 19, 2010


April 19, 2010

Hello Beloved Family,

This week was... the most indescribable week ever. I told you last week a little bit about the water festival that they have here in Thailand. It is the Thai New Year and known as สงกรานต์, Songraan, It's celebrated by throwing water on one another.

People stand on the side of the roads with trash cans and large buckets full of water, hoses, squirt guns and anything else that can throw water and they soak people that pass by. Imagine this across the city, everyplace, in every neighborhood. The water is often ice water. Hence, doing missionary work during this time is a little hard to say the least.

We managed to visit President Somchay and his family- they gave us some great sticky mango rice- and we managed to see a few investigators but the water festival put a stop to most everything. On our P-day last week, we played all day in the center of the city or the คู่เมือง, the moat of the city. I have never in my life been so wet. Everyone throws water on everyone. There are people in the back of trucks who will cover you in water. Buckets and bowls sell very well. Everyone plays! It's such an interesting way to ring in the New Year. The streets are more full of people than you can imagine. They sometimes will cover your face in flour. They will great you will a "Happy New Year" or "Happy Songraan."

Riding our bikes in the water was an adventure to say the least. The roads became very slippery and so we avoided bike riding as much as possible. We also came home early to avoid any problems at night. I have never seen so many people throwing water at each other. I saw a whole new side to Thai people. They loved to throw water on us since we were wearing nice clothes. I wore the same clothes the whole week. Seriously. Never wetter in my life! It was cold too, which is saying a lot since Thailand is so hot. It was pretty crazy to see how crazy it was. I didn't really get any pictures because well... my camera would have been broken for sure but memories will be forever ingrained.

Once that was over it was back to work. It felt a little strange. I have a few experiences that I want to share from this week that have been pressing on my mind. The first experience is one that I can't stop thinking about for some reason despite the fact it is so inconsequential. This week we spent a lot of time inviting. Thai people are gracious when we ask them if they are interested in learning about Christ. These are the things we hear most of the time:
1. Every religion teaches us to be good. It is in our heart and up to our devotion to that religion.
2. Every religion is very similar.
3. I am not free.

The first two are very common. In Thai it's one of the first phrases we learn after we get here in the country. Every religion teaches us to be good. I have heard this countless times on my mission. The other day however, we were inviting a man who was a security guard at an apartment complex. For some reason, the minute I saw this person I had the feeling of kinship that was so immensely intense that I cannot really describe it. When I saw him, I felt that he was like my sibling. Elder Day was the one inviting him, as I came in after since I was grabbing a drink from a water machine, but I listened. I felt so certain that this kinship would mean that he would at least let us come back and give him a copy of the Book of Mormon. But he turned us down, telling us that every religion teaches us to be good. I felt so stumped. How could I feel such a connection and a desire to help this man even though I had never seen him before that I knew of? I thought about how God's love is often unrequited. God loves us all so much even when we don't love Him. It doesn't matter where we are or what kind of person we are, God still loves us. I thought about how I felt that transcendent connection to this man, but how it doesn't often work out as we had planned. God has a perfect plan; we just don't quite get it yet. One day we'll understand why everything worked out the way that it did.

We had another really great experience this Sunday as I met some people from Switzerland. I unfortunately can't remember their names but they live in the Zurich stake and spoke German. They think they might have known Sonja. They were a couple and have been members for about 29 years. They came to Church and talked after meetings with us. They talked about how much they love the gospel. They said it took the missionaries months for both of them but they were both converted. They were wonderful people. I felt a connection to our family with Sonja serving there and many of us speaking German.

This Sunday we also had the baptism of three people! These were all member referrals. Sister Gung (shrimp), a protestant and her daughter, Blue, with the daughter of a member named Bo were all baptized this Sunday. I felt the love of God so strongly and the power of example. The symbolism of baptism is a beautiful one. They were all beaming afterwards. This next week we will see the baptism of a man named Daaw (star) who is from Burma but speaks Thai. And another baptism of the Sisters, a girl named Mai.

Chiang Mai continues to be great. Elder Day is simply awesome. I feel blessed to be companions with him. He has an awesome attitude and teaches way skillfully. Today all four of us went and saw a cave and a wad and the hill people.

I love you all and miss you all. Pray for you daily. Remember to keep the commandments and love everyone!

Elder Jacob Newman

Sunday, April 11, 2010

สงกรานต์ in Chiang Mai Begins!

April 12, 2010

Dearest Family,

First of all, sorry that I am emailing today. I thought we would be emailing on another day and so did everyone else but then we realized that getting to Internet cafes that would be open during สงกรานต์ (that's Songraan) would be a little hard so we are emailing today on the first day so as to avoid any possibility that we won't get to email. So today starts the water festival that Thailand is famous for. Yesterday people actually started playing together. It's a bit of a contrast from the normal Thai person you are used to. Usually Thai people are so quiet, refined. This, however, from the little playing I have seen so far is a whole new side of Thai people. They have no qualms with throwing water on people who pass by or putting flour on people's faces. Of course, I haven't seen anything yet from what I hear. There will be lots of throwing water around come this afternoon. I imagine that it will only be crazier come the next couple of days. The water festival comes from a tradition of thanking deity for the water that has been received in the past year. Here in Chiang Mai, from what I can gather, it's pretty intense compared to the rest of the country. We have to be in by 6 o'clock and we have to avoid certain areas of the city because they get a bit intense. So it will be a fun time here in Chiang Mai, I'm sure of it. As long as we remain safe and try to avoid getting too wet, we should have a great upcoming week.

Chiang Mai continues to win a place in my heart and take up a growing share everyday. There are too many reasons to list why I love it. From great food (which is cheap) to the people (everyone here is simply so nice) to the culture of the north (there's something magical about Northern Thailand culture and language), Chiang Mai is simply amazing. I don't really know how to describe the love I have for Chiang Mai. It's just… well... Chiang Mai. And this week I saw why I love it even more as we had conference - which we got to watch in English - and as we worked hard to help others to come unto Christ.

Some Conference reflections: President Uchtdorf gives a good talk. His talks on both being Christ's hands and patience were fantastic and really applicable to all of us. I loved how he talked about how patience allows us to learn. Elder Holland's talk on pornography was an amazing talk. It spoke to the heart of the matter and was impactful. The big focus this conference seemed to be family and how we can strengthen our family. Elder Anderson's talk about talking about Christ more often in our homes touched me and caused me to ponder on how we can better teach those around us about the miracles of Jesus Christ. And of course, Elder Christofferson's talk for the history lover in me was a hit of the conference. All in all, conference left me impressed with a desire to stand a little taller and to be a better disciple of Jesus Christ. The testimonies of Jesus Christ this time around were powerful. I felt that this conference was extremely Christ centered and very testimony building about the role of the Savior.

I felt particularly intrigued, however, by a talk Ronald Rasband gave in the priesthood session. He talked about how mission calls are assigned. I have pondered on this almost everyday since the day I got my mission call in February. I thought back to the bus ride to Salt Lake from Provo on the day I opened it. I thought about how dramatic that day was. I remember right before opening it thinking about how my expectations were about to be shattered. When I saw Thailand, I remember how I felt. It felt instantly correct even if it was very unexpected. I remembered the first time I saw Thai. Scary. Kevin showed me that on his phone - a picture of Thailand with the names in Thai. I wondered how I would ever learn to speak let alone read that language. Since I have been in Thailand, I have seen how while I don't understand God's purpose's fully, there is a reason that we go where we go. Thailand is the place for me to be right now at this time in my life. I wouldn't have it any other way because any other way it wouldn't be right. Every email I talk about how much I love it here and people probably think I sound like a broken record, but it's so amazing because it's the place that I need to be. Granted, I don't know the why of it all but I do understand that it is something that God has asked me to do at this time.

As for happenings this week, there were lots of great and neat experiences. We taught a man named หนึ่ง, which is One in Thai, and his girlfriend. We taught them at the Church. Actually, we met them while inviting earlier and decided to meet with him and he happened to bring his girlfriend along. We thought we were going to be ditched at our appointment since they came late but he called and asked for directions to the Church and then he called again but it just so happened that as I was explaining where the Church was, we ran out of batteries on our phone! But we met them on the street and then taught them. หนึ่ง feels different. He understood the material very well, asked amazing questions and has a desire to learn. His girlfriend, who we thought wasn't interested at first, became very interested as we talked about prayer. We will have to see what happens with them.

We have also been teaching พลอย Ploy - gem, a common Thai nickname- the daughter of Brother บิว- Biw. She read from the scriptures and felt the Spirit without realizing it. We taught her a lesson on the atonement that felt so intimate and powerful. We used the parable of the mediator. It made me think of the role of justice and mercy. I remember how Rachel Mize wrote a paper about this very topic and about how mercy is conditional but infinite. Christ stands ready to help us and will help us in our times of need. I know that He loves us and is our Mediator. พลอย understands well and has a desire to be baptized.

We keep working to find new people to teach, continue to work with our members and try to avoid getting too wet. It's an amazing time to be in Thailand and I love it with all my heart. I know that this is where I need to be.

Anyway, I love you all and think of you often.

With love,

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Easter!

April 5, 2010

Dearest Family,

Happy Easter, Conference and Mormon New Year to all!

All is well in Chiang Mai for this week! It's been heating up but the weather has been great and everything is simply amazing here. I have fallen in love with Chiang Mai so quickly. I have definitely had some what I would call "transcendental" experiences in Thailand and I have had them in Chiang Mai for sure. As I walk around, I tend to forget that my skin is white. I often just feel like I am Thai because I speak Thai and we eat Thai food. We go to the Thai markets and buy Thai things. We talk to them all day, we make friends with them. Another realization of the fact that we are all children of God and really aren't that different.

I love Chiang Mai's feel and I love the branch to pieces. I have been translating about every week here. It's a challenge that's for sure. It's hard to translate into English when I fully understand the meaning in Thai. A translation cannot really adequately express the meaning of the Thai. The problem with translating is that my brain can understand everything but my mouth and brain can't re-form it into English fast enough.

On Tuesday we had a miracle. We felt that we should go to a market that is fairly close to our home. We went there and started inviting but we didn't really see too much until we were walking out of the market. We turned the corner and ran into a man who was working at his watch shop. (To understand Thailand, we must understand that everything is on the sidewalk/street. Food, shops, everything are small one or two man run businesses.) We started talking to him and he talked about his son, who he said was just like us when he passed away. We talked about how he could see his son again. Something changed when we said that. He had studied with the Jehovah's Witnesses but he said that he felt something different about this. We have only seen him once but I know that it wasn't a coincidence. As I thought about this, I thought about how the plan of salvation is such a blessing.

This week we had a visit from the APs and a Thai missionary who will be serving in Hawaii when his visa is figured out. He's a great guy and will be a great missionary. We also had a great English class - I love the English program here - it's simply amazing! I am so impressed with the Thai people's dedication to learn English. Besides that we really just got out there and worked to find people. We went to markets, on the streets, everyplace you can imagine.

During our inviting we run into so many kinds of people - from the Jehovah witnesses to very devout Buddhists and everyone in between. A statement that we often hear from anyone, no matter who we talk to, if they are Thai is "all religions teach us to be good.” I often find myself stumped at this statement because well... it's true. But Thai people are so courteous and kind. I love inviting them because they always tell us that we speak Thai well and always give us a genuine smile. I think if we all smiled more we would be a lot happier. I love the Thai smile - it's an attribute of divinity.

We gave a recent convert a lesson on gratitude that caused me to reflect on gratitude. I thought about the things I am grateful for and the things that I have received in my life. Ever since I've come to Chiang Mai, I feel like my happiness/gratitude level has reached a whole new level. I don't even know what it is - I just feel happier than I ever have in my entire life. I feel different than I ever have in my entire life. I feel as if I am closer to the Savior than I have ever been, I have found more joy in the scriptures than I ever have before and I feel as if I am learning more and more about myself and the kind of person that I want to be.

As we partook of the sacrament this week, I thought about the prayers on the sacrament. I love it in Thai because it gives it a whole new meaning. One of the phrases that used for “remembrance” includes a preposition that means “towards.” I thought about that as I was writing this and as I evaluate Thai almost daily. Are we thinking towards Christ? Are we living our lives towards Christ? It's a question that we face. Have we given our hearts to Him? I feel so grateful for this opportunity to be in Thailand especially at this Easter time. Jesus Christ is the way. I have come to see how much I love Him in Thailand. I feel as if here I have met my Savior. Our Savior is Jesus Christ. I know that He watches out for each of us and that as we reflect on His atonement, we will see its power in our lives. That's another lesson I have seen in Chiang Mai. The atonement not only can but will make us one with God. That lesson is one I learned so intimately and powerfully here as I have relied on the atonement. I can't fully explain it in words but these past few weeks I have seen that power change everything in me. No matter what our past, no matter where we are now, that atonement will help us. I know it's hard to believe that something that took place in such a distant land can have an influence on us today. But I know. I know it can. I see it everyday in the eyes of the members, in the eyes of my companions and in myself.

This Easter time, it didn't feel like Easter in a commercial sense at all (everyone's really getting ready for the water festival) but it felt like a real Easter as we took the sacrament. As we heard the testimonies of members, I felt the Spirit. From the mother who talked about her son who just left for his mission and how the atonement is what he is teaching about to the young sister who talked about Jesus once of Humble Birth and then bore testimony of His power, I loved the sacrament meeting for Easter. It's one that I will not forget. I will not forget the feeling of kinship, the feeling of love for this branch.

I look forward to Conference. It sounds like some great things happened and some great talks were given. I especially look forward to (keep our fingers crossed on this one) - watching it in English! The Thai version is SO hard to understand. I have talked about this before but Thai has levels of language. Conference uses INTENSE Thai that is really high level Thai. In fact, sometimes Church publications use words that most Thai people don't even know. It's funny - in Nongkhai they once asked the Elders what one word meant. Uhh... we had no idea, clearly! Turned out it was a word for lamb.

Anyway, for final thoughts. This week will be fantastic. We're going to keep seeing miracles and we're going to keep working hard. I love you all and love to hear all about everything at home. I am so grateful for all your support. Sorry if I don't respond to every little thing. I love hearing about it though.

Time flies here in Thailand. 10 months. Gotta make every day count!

I love you all,

Elder Jacob Newman