Monday, June 28, 2010

LDS Chapel in Thonburi, Thailand

What a beautiful day in a beautiful place!

June 28, 2010

Dearest Family,

What a beautiful day in a beautiful place! Thonburi of course! Today I feel infinitely better and ready to get out there and take on the world. This last week was definitely a bit of a struggle, to say the least. But this upcoming week should be fantastic, I am hoping and praying. With the hospital and all kinds of other issues going on, our lives were a bit hectic there for a bit. But this week, I really came to rely upon the Savior more.

When I was driving in the car to the hospital, I thought how scary it was to be going to the hospital in Thailand. I didn't know what to expect. But even though I was in pain, I felt at peace about everything. I don't really get why things happen the way they do - it was an interesting start to a moves that I will never forget. From opening an area with a greenie to fainting in an elevator to trying our hardest to get around Thonburi, I feel like this moves I have grown so much and come to rely on God more than I ever have in the past.

The Zone Leaders talked to me on the phone and expressed their confidence in me and in my ability to open this area. Sure it's a bit of a whirlwind but I know we can do it. I am determined to work my hardest to find those people who I was sent here to find. President Smith expects a lot for Thonburi. Thonburi is the most populated area in Bangkok and yet is only getting about 40 people out to Church a week. We want to see that change to help the members and to help the kingdom of God grow. The membership wants to help but it's a task that we all can't do alone. We are all striving together to help the Savior's work.

This week I found myself somewhat tired from all the inviting. I didn't feel like many people were listening. But then of course, once we feel like that something amazing happens. We were inviting one day and I smiled at this old man who was making shoes with his wife. We exchanged a few words and eventually he gave us the number for his house and said we could come back the next day. Unfortunately the number didn't work but I decided we should still go to the appointment because he said we could. At first he was suspicious, not really knowing what to think of us. Then I said a prayer. He said two words in Thai right after I finished the prayer: ขนลุก which means that he got goose bumps. He said, “I can feel something. I can feel something that I have never felt before.” He proceeded to explain why he even let me talk to him in the first place. He said that his life has been hard - the economy has taken his shoe business from a thriving industry to where he has to live with his children in order to make ends meet. He felt so alone and so discouraged. He said when he saw me he talked to me because I had a smile on my face and it seemed genuine. I thought about it. That day was a harder day - I felt a little discouraged that no one was listening to us but I was still very sincerely happy. I didn't think that this smile would open him up. He said he wondered how I could be happy when the world was so hard. I told him of his Father and of the love He has for him, a son of God. I know God loves all His children. I felt the Spirit strongly as Elder Seymour and I taught him. He was willing to accept another appointment and to pray in his free time.

The same miraculous Saturday night we met with a couple. I had called this potential twice. The first time he was sick and the second time he didn't answer. But this time we managed to get an appointment with him on that Saturday. He and his wife listened as we talked about families. They have two children. He doesn't quite get the role of religion in his life but we are going to be seeing him again this week. They listened intently as we told them of the eternal possibilities of family.

And finally we had one more appointment with a man named Somchay. At first I was a bit suspicious of this investigator since he didn't seem too interested. Little did I know that he would fall in love with our teachings. The first time we met he said he "ชอบมากเลย!" Which translates roughly as "I like this a lot!" Then he explained that he has been to church before and likes Christianity. We have another appointment with him today.

God really showed us how things work. I discovered that if I just keep working and helping this branch and helping these people even when it's hard and tiring that it's so worth it! And that's why I loved this week because it showed me how worth it it really is. To be with a greenie is such a refreshing experience too. He sees the world of Thailand with awe and wonder and is so excited and ready to help Thai people come to know their Savior. I love working with Elder Seymour. He has the Spirit, his Thai is getting better all the time and he is working so hard. I love this opportunity to be his trainer. I feel like a lot of times he trains me and I am his trainee. He teaches through his love, hard work and smile. His patience too. He has a lot of patience with me and with the work here in Thonburi.

I love Thonburi and I love Thailand. There's so much that happens everyday I can't record it all in words. Words cannot adequately express the spiritual and the physical experiences. The feelings I get as I teach Thai people and as I do this work cannot be explained. I think a mission is about learning that the world isn't about you. The world doesn't revolve around my needs or my comfort. There are people out there who need help. There are people who need the love of God. And that's why we do this. I love this work and this people. I can't express it adequately. And so I don't. That's the limitation of words. Please pray for us daily that we will really help this area and that we will find people who are prepared.


Elder Jacob Newman

It is gastritis and not an ulcer

After further tests at the hospital in Bangkok, Jacob was diagnosed with gastritis. We are relieved that it isn't an ulcer. The medicine seems to be helping and he is getting back to work as usual.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Trip to a Bangkok Hospital

June 21, 2010

Hello Family,

An unexpected event today made me a bit nervous. Now before I tell you anymore, do NOT panic. I am doing fine now. I will take some time to rest and recover. Today I was in the elevator just about to go out to email. This entire moves I have felt stomach pains but it's nothing out of the ordinary until today. Today I felt an intense pain. I thought it was a parasite so I was going to get some medication. We were in the elevator with the other three elders and well... I said I don't feel so good and then I blacked out for about 5 seconds. What a way to start the moves. We went to the best hospital in Bangkok and they told me that I have an ulcer. Unfortunately that means I can't eat anything fun for at least two weeks until it clears up. So please pray that this will clear up quickly and not affect anything. It hurts really badly right now but I think the medicine should help. They gave me Aluminum Magnesium and Miraid in order to help me start feeling better.

I forgot how bad ulcers HURT. It's because of the stress. We can't find ANYPLACE to live in Thonburi and we are living in SUCH cramped quarters. I received permission to look online for apartments. To be entirely honest, I am a bit frustrated. We need a house that has two bedrooms, two western bathrooms and a kitchen. Sorry, usually my emails are so upbeat - it's just today I feel sick and really tired. But now I will get upbeat after I have complained a bit. If you could take some time to look up some houses. We are looking for one on a road charansanit wong or one that is in Thonburi itself. I can't find anything and this house is just too small.

This week was super awesome. It really was. I have never felt like I have so much confidence and love in my life. Sure, it's hard to open this new area but we saw some great things happen. We found about three really great investigators. We saw the power of prayer and hard work. Elder Seymour, as we sat in a lesson, asked the most simple but profound question to an investigator. “Do you think God loves us all?” The Spirit was so strong despite the fact that he was ill. And this investigator will continue to be a good investigator. Perhaps the most surprising thing was the meeting with a Muslim man who invited himself to learn and then showed up to three hours of Church on Sunday. He's interested to see how this will be a blessing to his life. I love seeing the shine in people's faces as they see the Gospel changing their lives, slowly but surely. It's not something you see very often here in Thailand but when you do, it's an amazing experience. Today, I don't have much to say. Sorry this may be the shortest email ever. I still love Thailand to pieces. Everything is simply wonderful but I just need to get better. Pray that I will get better.

Alright, well my companion is AWESOME. It's been a blast. Basically I feel so blessed to be with him. He's helping the area a lot even if he thinks he's not. He keeps me going and on the ball. It's been really stressful with the situation and everyone knows I am a ball of stress but I have really felt like together we get along so well and I just love him to pieces! He loves penguins too. What a coincidence. I really know this is God's work, even when it's so, so hard. I know that on the days where I don't feel well, there's a Savior who knows my pain. I know He's there. When I was in the hospital, I was so worried. I feel so grateful that I came to this place and I just need to get better to help our area grow and flourish. Right now I am just too sick. I love this work so much. Man it's hard but I love these people more than I can describe. I look in their eyes and I see children of God just longing for something. Longing to be recognized, to be loved. God LOVES them so much. Even if we don't believe in Him, God still loves us. What an amazing thought! Love that's so perfect and so infinite.

This opportunity here in Thonburi is off to a rough start with the sickness but I know we came here to find people. That's why I'm here. “Don't ever forget the people you are supposed to find.” - Those were the words of Elder Brown in Chiang Mai to me in my friendship book. I am trying so hard to remember them. How will I know who they are? I will know as I trust that I don't know but that God does know them. One by one. Granted, we will have frustrations. But I know that this is God's desire for me to be here in Thonburi. I don't understand but I trust in God. That's who I trust.

As for today, I want to let you know that I love you all so much and pray for you daily. Please pray that I will just get better and have no problems. I love you all. So. So. Much. Families can be together forever and the gospel is more than just simple teachings, it's the power of God, the power of the Sacred in action. It's changing people's lives as you speak. I love these people!

Alright, that's all I got. Home to some boiled rice and some medicine.


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, June 14, 2010

Greetings from Thonburi!

June 14, 2010

Dearest Family,

Greetings from Thonburi! Our area is called Big Bangkok! So I am literally back to the city of angels. I can't believe it! I never expected to leave Chiang Mai this soon. I missed Bangkok so much. PEOPLE everywhere! So many sights and people to see and help.

I got the call earlier this week that I would be training. Ironically, I was riding to go inviting at a place called Nongpaakrang - Swampy sap forest. I talked to President Smith. "Elder Newman, I'm going to change your assignment. You are whitewashing and training and going to be the senior companion (phii)." I was shocked. Elder Jensen and I robbed of our 2 moves together!

But then we had a crazy thing. Moves meeting was supposed to be Friday. But they moved the flights and so they had to MOVE MOVES MEETING A DAY EARLIER. So we had to rush to pack in Chiang Mai to get down to moves meeting on the Nakhon Chai Air bus - it's a bus. It's funny, the bus is like fancy here and the people wear uniforms and you get food and stuff. I didn't sleep a wink on the bus. I was so sad to leave Chiang Mai. We had seen so many wonderful things in Chiang Mai that I didn't know what to expect. I will miss Elder Jensen. He is an awesome missionary and a great friend. I will miss our fun times messing up our Thai or teaching funny investigators, inviting by the mote in Chiang Mai, enjoying the fun times but most importantly feeling the Spirit. He teaches so well and teaches with the Spirit.

So we got to Bangkok. Moves meeting came around after a shower in Pakkret at the APs house. I was so nervous. We had moves meeting which was good. They announced the closing of an area in Burriram since the branch now has a member branch president. So... that opened up an interesting opportunity. I knew I would be coming to Bangkok, I just wasn't sure where. I thought for sure that I would be whitewashing not opening. Then he announced that Elder Seymour would be going to Thonburi with Elder Newman, opening an area that in the past has only had 2 Elders. Now it has 4. Welcome to Tonburi. Bangkok central. My companion, Elder Seymour, is amazing. He's so full of excitement, he is brave and will speak Thai even if he doesn't know how to say it and he's so ready to learn and grow. He needs to feel the spirit, help the Thai people, and learn Thai. I hope I will live up to the expectations that God has set for me. So at this time, I ask for all of your special prayers at this time. We don't know the area very well and we are all four living in the same house right now - soon to move out hopefully - and we are literally starting from scratch 100%. Please pray that we will be lead to those who are ready to listen to us and ready to help this small, struggling ward grow! This ward has amazing members but it's just so small! It needs all the help it can get.

Before I left Chiang Mai I taught Tum for the last time. He's a miracle. He's the man we found on a rainy night at the end of a really hard day. He felt really prepared to hear our message. I felt sad that I left Chiang Mai but I feel that I left it better than when I got there.

For a final few words. Thonburi is amazing. Wow. It's just amazing. I love Bangkok and I love this mission. Yesterday I had a really interesting comment from a member. We offered to help clean up and they said. "No. Elder. Go out and find the lost sheep." I was shocked. The welcome to the branch was fantastic. We are going to get things rolling in this part of Bangkok. I am so excited. Yesterday we went to the bishop's house for dinner. He's an amazing man and he wants Thonburi to grow so much. Thonburi needs it. His wife made the BEST laab ever. There was also a shrimp vegetable dish and masamman curry. The Bishop's name is Arun - he's lived in Chiang Mai before - member since birth. And his wife's name is Cherry. Great family. This ward is amazing. I love it to pieces. All it needs is more membership! I know I came to Thonburi to find someone. I know that I wasn't put with Elder Seymour simply by randomness. I know we are together for a purpose. But at this time, I am trying to find out that purpose. I don't know what it is. Pray for us and we will work hard. I want to please my Savior and my Father in Heaven. I love this time and this place. Please pray that we will be blessed. I hope you all are well.

I am grateful to all you. For everything. Please never forget that I remember all of you and pray for you all daily. Please be safe, happy and healthy and pray for us too!

I love you all and pray for you!

Elder Jacob Newman

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What a Blessing to Be in Thailand!

June 7, 2010

Dearest Family,

Today we went to the Chiang Mai Zoo for an activity. The Zoo is awesome. I would highly recommend it, especially if you can get in on the Thai rather than the faraang price. They write the faraang price in roman numerals and the Thai one in Thai numerals. It's pretty funny.

Wow. What a crazy week. I don't know where to start. First of all I met Sister Limsukon - the sister missionary from Chiang Mai that we met in DC. She's now engaged. She's a ward missionary. It's weird to hear her speak Thai if only because her English is so good.

In other news, one of our investigators told us that he thinks Joseph Smith is a prophet of God or "apostle" but he said he would pray about it. We were on the verge of dropping him but he told us that his pastor from his Lahuu (hill tribe) Church is complaining that we are teaching him and his family. He feels a lot of social pressure but he wants to seek out truth. We met with him at the walking market yesterday. I was shocked at his willingness to do these things.

We found lots of great new people to teach this week. Some of them, however, we are turning over to other people in the district. For example, Elder Jensen invited a man out of work who is very interested. His name is Puu. That means crab. We met him along the street and when we saw him we asked him how he was doing. He said he was Catholic and out of work. We offered to give him a tour of the Church. We went and taught him a great first lesson. He said he felt like Joseph in a search for truth.

Other news. Investigators are picking up these days. Ploy continues to do great. Ploy told us about how she was sick but how she prayed and how her testimony was confirmed as she prayed and exercised faith. She expressed a belief in the restoration and in the gospel. It was a great last lesson. We are finding some great people. We had an Errand of Angels-esque moment except the investigator was falling asleep. It was on a first lesson. Elder Jensen extended the baptismal commitment and he seemed really to have quite a change around.

I hit my one year mark. Probably the weirdest moment of my time in Thailand. I felt so old and yet so young. I don't know how to describe it exactly. I feel like I just barely got here and now it's just slipping before me. It's so funny how we think we just barely figure things out, e.g. Thai, being a missionary and then by the time we do it's almost (well key word almost) passed away right before us. Life is so short. Don't waste it. I wasted way too much of it in the past. It's a sad reality to think that time that I could have been doing things worthwhile, I just sat around. But there's always the future to change. I love that about the gospel, it looks towards the future. Sure we mess up in the past, but we can always look forward to the future. I know that this is how God wants us to think about our lives. I have seen how our investigators have changed their lives as they look to the future. I think the purpose of my mission is to gain a perspective on life and to help these people gain a similar perspective. This work isn't easy, I won't ever say that. In fact, it's really hard. But frankly, if it weren't as hard as it was, I wouldn't really want to do it. The amount of work we put in is so worth it every second of every day.

I don't think I am changing companions this moves. I know that there's something great about to happen in Chiang Mai. We are seeing things really pick up. Please keep praying we will find people who are ready to act, not just ready to listen. Please pray that we will find people who will understand the impact of our message and not merely the fact that we come to teach good. Please pray that we will work hard every day.

This week I saw that we have to forget ourselves and just love these people. I love Thailand so much. Even when it's hard, hot and no one seems to be listening, there is nothing like the Thai smile - this last week we met a man with the brightest smile I have ever seen - or nothing like the kindness of Thai people. From the old grandpa we met while inviting in a neighborhood, to the people who simply act as if we don't exist, I feel an intimate and deep connection to all these people. I look around and see children of God, everywhere. And I just love them so much. From investigators who have taught me so much about life, to the people who cook our food on the streets, to everyone we talk to, I feel God loves them all. I love them all too. Chiang Mai with Elder Jensen has been a miracle because we are seeing people change their lives. I love this opportunity to be here in Chiang Mai. To be here in Thailand. What a blessing!

I love you all so very much and pray for you daily. Never forget the Savior- even if you do, He doesn't forget you.


Elder Jacob Newman

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My One Year Mark

May 31, 2010

Dear Family,

It's pretty crazy how time flies. As this is my year mark email and as I approach that year mark, I think about how much I have changed since my time in Thailand.

First of all, the most noticeable change is the weight loss. I don't know how I did that to be entirely honest. It just kind of happened. I eat plenty but I think all the biking and the heat probably makes me thinner. I have also realized that I really do enjoy exercise it turns out. I will always have such fond memories of my first year riding my bike all over Nongkhai and Chiangmai. I will remember the times when, like yesterday, I took a wrong turn and so we ended up biking more than necessary. I will remember the times I had to dodge crazy Chiang Mai traffic and the times I was chased by dogs in dark alleys. I think my attitude towards the outdoors has changed. It turns out it is beautiful! I love being out in nature here and exercising. Granted, that's more of a change of attitude than anything else. I feel physically better here than I ever have in my life.

Second of all, I feel that my faith and love for the Savior has grown. I have felt the power of his atonement so personally as I have served in Thailand. I think that often times in our lives, we like to measure our success by something quantifiable. For me, as a missionary in Thailand, I have seen that sometimes as missionaries or as even spectators we often tend to measure success by "numbers" of baptisms or converts. I feel that for me, I have realized something. These numbers are not a measure of success. What is a measure of success is how much we desire and work to help others come closer to the Savior. I feel like as a missionary in Thailand, we don't really see many baptisms but when we do, it's a very tender thing. We spend hours in the sun and the rain finding people who are interested to learn about the gospel. Lots of days all we hear is that every religion teaches us to be good and that Christianity and Buddhism are similar in almost every respect. Most days we just get the "let me go study and think about it first" and the wonderful, polite Thai rejection. Granted, some days I've felt a little frustrated with this. And many days I wonder about the difference I have made in Thailand but I feel that as I have learned to focus on the Savior and to have faith in Him, I feel successful. I feel that I have come to Thailand for a purpose and for this time.

Third of all, I feel so grateful for family and for the gospel. The reason I put these two together is because I feel that on my mission, I have seen how living the gospel in our families, including all commandments, will bring us security. I have seen too many broken families, too many people's lives that are miserable because of their choices that have not brought their family happiness. It's so important to remember the important things. In Thailand, the eternal perspective sometimes is lacking. Once we have that eternal perspective, we see that this life is but a moment, but we must use our time wisely and we must love God. As we see His influence in our lives and apply the teachings of the Gospel in our families, true happiness and peace will come to our homes. The commandments aren't inconveniences that are meant to cause us to stumble, they are guidelines for a happy, successful life.

I feel so much more confident and loving. I can speak Thai now. Who would have ever thought I would be speaking Thai? Not me. My favorite thing about being in Thailand is how almost every conversation we have with Thai people goes the same at first. We greet them, talk for a little bit then they ask the following: Are you students? Where do you live? How long have you been in Thailand? They also comment on us speaking Thai clearly and well. It's really funny. I love how those are the first things we hear. I guess it's because faraangs really don't speak Thai that much.

This week we saw some good things but we also saw a lot of disappointments. We ended up dropping a lot of people. But this Sunday we found three new, great investigators. Please keep praying that we can find people who are really interested. It's so hard to find people to teach that are really interested. Of course, we can help them become interested but I feel like at this time, finding people who are super interested has been a bit of a challenge. We are seeing miracles though.

Yesterday we taught a man from Burma. He's from a tribal group called Kichen or something like that. The Spirit was pretty strong as we explained about the Book of Mormon and the love of the Savior. He seems very interested in how this book came about and how it can help him in his life. His name is Duy Duy. We met him one night inviting when NO ONE seemed to be out. I felt like we should have gone to this neighborhood that day. We met him and greeted him in Thai, thinking he was Thai, he didn't speak Thai at all but speaks great English.

The other two are a couple we met on one of our very frustrating "phid nad" days- everyone didn't make their appointments/they all fell through- who were so friendly. They are Christian and were gracious enough to let us go see them. We got there so late because I took a wrong turn (we almost ended up in Sangamphaeng! That's a LOT of kilos away from Chiang Mai. It's a different amphoe!) But they were gracious and seem interested. His name is Tig (t in IPA) and her name is Waw. They are Christian and attend Church in a different amphoe in Chiang Mai. They want to... ummm... what's that word in English.... prove these things? (I am forgetting English.)

We are continuing to work hard. Elder Jensen and I always have a great time together. We invite hard, we work hard and I love it. It's so fun to come home and just be beat and ready for bed. It makes you motivated and keeps you going!

Anyway, even though this week was disappointing, we are going to press forward. I love Thailand and know this is where I'm supposed to be. Elder Jensen continues to be a champ and is a great companion. Every companion has been a blessing!

Anyway, I love you all so much. Your support is awesome and I am sorry that sometimes I don't have too much to say. Your prayers help and I pray for you all daily. I love each and every one of you so much and know that together we make the best family. I love you all. Remember to eat lots of Thai food!

Elder Jacob Newman