April 5, 2010
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