April 12, 2010
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.
Elder Jacob Newman