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