May 31, 2010
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