Monday, May 17, 2010

Chiang Mai Is Peaceful

May 17, 2010

Dear Family,

Well from what I can gather, everything seems peaceful here in Chiang Mai. There are areas where we do see red shirts but I have yet to see anything. Chiang Mai is very peaceful even if there might be demonstrations. The only place that is dangerous right now is the Asoke/Din Daeng area. Bangkok is simply huge. It's just the heart of Bangkok that's dangerous. So... Don't worry. I am safe and of course we stay away from demonstrations and areas that could be dangerous.

Here in Thailand this week has been pretty great. First, 30 plus BYU students came to Chiang Mai and will be here for three months, including SarahJane's roommate, Margo. It was funny to see them all at Church. I recognized three of them from BYU.

The sacrament meeting was great, as usual. Chiang Mai has such a strong system of support and has wonderful membership. At this time, however, sacrament meeting attendance across the country is down. Thailand's sacrament meeting attendance is actually in a decreasing pattern right now. It's so hard to see this. It hit a peak in the early 2000s and now it is decreasing. I don't quite understand the reason. As missionaries, it makes us very sad to see how many people will get baptized with faith and then fall away. The responsibility really falls upon the members to reactivate and fellowship new converts. I think that's a lesson I have seen so often in Thailand.

Frankly, missionary work in Thailand is extremely difficult. (This is not to say it's easy anywhere. This is simply a fact.) We spend a lot of time talking to lots of people and we get rejected a lot - in a very nice, every religion teaches us to be good kind of way. This, however, becomes less of a downer and more of a source of encouragement in the end. Being in Thailand has taught me the value of hard work. We go out everyday and give it our all and we will see things happen. We see miracles like a recent convert named Brother Biw who bore his testimony/gave a short talk yesterday about how the gospel is a blessing in his life and for his family. We see people like Brother Egg who is now a ward missionary and is still very active from what I hear. We see people like Jiab and her family whose whole life was changed. Granted, the quantity isn't very impressive by our eyes but the worth of these souls is so infinite. We walk around all day telling these people how much value they have. And I see more and more everyday how much value we all have. We really have so much divine potential. We can't ever forget that or ignore that.

We had an interesting experience on Saturday. About two weeks ago we invited a man at a walking market near our house that's pretty big and popular. He told us he was Christian and we told him about the Book of Mormon. He lives pretty far from the Church. We made an appointment with him earlier this week and he seemed somewhat indifferent. When we arrived at the wad where we agreed to meet, however, I was shocked. He had bought us water, waited for us even though we were late and then took us to his house. Here in Chiang Mai there are many hill tribe people. He is from the Lahu tribe. We sat down in a small yard with him and the rest of his family. We ended up at one point teaching 8 -10 people. It was a good lesson and they agreed for us to come back.

At this time, I felt so blessed to think that we ran into them at the market and that they will now have an opportunity to learn about these things. I pray that we can help them and that we can continue to find more investigators who are prepared and willing to listen and not simply เกรงใจ Elder. This time here in Chiang Mai with Elder Jensen is such a blessing. Elder Jensen is fantastic. He works way hard, is very focused and dedicated and teaches very well. He's another blessing to have as a companion. Every companion teaches us so many valuable lessons. And everyday we just keep learning together. It's fun to learn Thai together since we're similar moves in country. It's been a blast.

I did a lot of translating at Zone Conference. My strength in Thai is that I speak clearly, my vocabulary's pretty weak though. Actually, I make mistakes all the time. Tones are hard. The other day I accidently told someone that they could learn more about the church of “alcohol” rather than “our” church. The words “our” and “alcohol” are only different by one letter and a tone. So that was awesome. I have lots of funny stories about tones. I actually haven't said anything TOO crazy but I still say weird things sometimes.

I want to let everyone know that Thailand's great. I often think back at the past and think of the decisions that led me here to Thailand. And then, I think about my time here in Thailand. I just think everyone should know that I wouldn't trade it for the world. Even the days where we go out inviting all day for 8 hours in the hot sun I wouldn't trade the laughs I've had with companions, the people I've talked to, the weird and crazy experiences we've had. (Last week we taught some faraangs at a muay thai place that we passed by. Another day, I was inviting someone and a naked man with a machete climbed up the wall behind me. - I didn't see it but Elder Jensen did.) And, the spiritual things, I wouldn't trade for anything! Especially my time here in Chiang Mai. I feel a transformation in my life and in my perspective. I feel my outlook on life is different. There are things that are "important" and there are things that are important. Don't let your life become full of "then I would be happy"s if such and such happened. Look to the future but love the moment you are in. Even if it's hot and you're tired and you feel like no one's listening to you, I have never felt more joy as I have tried to help these people understand the Savior and His atonement.

I feel like I say this a lot but the gospel is more than just true, the gospel is so real and has a transforming power in people's lives. The other day we taught a man who had read from the first three chapters of the Book of Mormon. He's a Christian and skeptical of the Book of Mormon but he said the following: Even though I think it might be false, there's something special about this book. The Book of Mormon, as my freshman year second semester BOM teacher said, is the handbook of the atonement. We understand Christ from it. In Thailand, I've seen Christ more personally and felt closer to him than I ever felt possible. The Thai language gives a whole new meaning to Christ. He's our king, our lord and master. And I love him. Thai expresses our relationship with God as his children. When we teach people to pray we will use a less complex pronoun - children - rather than the formal phuagkhaaphraong - servants of thee. We talk to God like we would talk to our dad. What a special relationship.

Anyway, things are great. I'm healthy, oh so happy and loving Thailand. I love you all and pray for you all. Thailand's the best place ever and I know that I'm supposed to be here. Pray we can find those people that God has in store for us and that we will be able to do what he wants us to do!

Love you all lots and lots,

Elder Jacob Newman

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