Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Surprise Visit by the Olson Family to Elder Newman in Thonburi, Thailand

On Sunday, July 4, 2010, the Olson Family went to see Jacob while visiting Thailand. This photo shows the surprise on Jacob's face as he sees them in the Church building. He was not expecting them and appears to not know exactly what to do. the Olsons are a great family in our ward. Their son, Elder Thatcher Olson, is currently serving in the New Mexico, Albuquerque Mission.

Mark, A'Lissa, Veronica. and Taylor Olson with Elder Jacob Newman in Front of the Thonburi Chapel

The Olsons from our ward in Salt Lake City were so wonderful to go out of their way to see Jacob in Thailand. They shared these great photos with us.

Video of Jacob Translating for Mark Olson in Thonburi

The Olson Family filmed Elder Newman while he was translating for Mark Olson who was speaking and bearing his testimony to the Investigators' Class at the Thonburi Ward in Thailand.

Click below to see the video.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Thonburi Is One Of The Best Areas In The Mission

July 26, 2010

Dearest Family,

What a week. Bangkok is tiring! There's so much pollution and heat. This week was a very educational week - that's the best way to describe it. And in the end, I feel good about the things that happened and I feel very excited that we are starting a new moves. Moves is like a fresh start. It's such a great time to really see how we can improve. This past moves I learned a lot of lessons. I learned that we can't get too stressed out when things work out differently than we had hoped or planned. I learned that often our stress causes us to think too much. This last moves was an adventure to say the least. Was it fun? Oh was it ever! Was it stressful? Looking back I made it more stressful than it needed to be really. I feel as if our efforts here in Thonburi have helped the ward, even if we have had a hard time finding good investigators. We have met so many amazing people.

From the bishop wife, Sister Cherry, who shines with the pure light of Christ, the Bishop who works to keep the ward running as smoothly as possible to every other wonderful member here, I have to admit Thonburi is one of the best areas in the mission. I love it here. The members make it so worth it. They are doing wonderful things for us as missionaries and are eager to help and serve. Thonburi is a great place. To describe it in detail is difficult. Everyday we pass some of the most beautiful buildings in Thailand next to houses that are best described as “row houses.” Everyone in Thonburi lives “up” in condos, apartments, multi-story buildings. The streets are crowded with people selling their wares - from Isaan somtum to treats to fruit to bags and clothing; it seems like everywhere something is for sale. Each soy we walk down is full of people making shoes, bags and other handcrafts.

These people work 14 hours a day to make a better life for their children. They live in hopes that their children's lives will be better by their sacrifice. That's what love is - sacrifice. We've heard it's better to give than to receive. Very true. It's always better to give than to receive. It can be more tiring but it's so very worth it. This world is about the children of God. This work of teaching and helping souls isn't hard - it's the best thing ever. Sometimes when I hear about other missions, I hear about a lot of investigators and baptisms and all that. I have no doubt that in Thailand this can happen - but what of our faith if it doesn't? Does that mean we don't have faith? No. True faith isn't dependant on the outcome of our situation - it's about trusting God, come what may. When we, like President Hinckley, remember that discouragement won't get us anywhere, we can do anything!

Our first moves was a test in the sense of trying to figure out how to invite, where to invite, how to find investigators, how to help them keep commitments. We saw some miracles even if in the end those people decided not to learn further - they will never forget what they felt and one day they will remember that. Our attitude in life is everything - we all have challenges, it's a matter of how we take these challenges that determines the kind of person we will be. Do we take our challenges with faith and a smile, relying on God and doing our part or do we give up and refuse to go further? The theme from last moves was “Press Forward.” If missionary work were easy, the Churches in Thailand would be full. They aren't. Does that mean we give up? I refuse to give up until I find those people that I was called here to find. I wasn't called here because I needed to be the one to find them but I was called to represent the love of God. That's our calling - to show the love of God and to love the people with all our hearts. To describe my love for the Thai people is almost impossible. I never knew how much I could love someone that I didn't know even if I found myself frustrated when they wouldn’t keep appointments.

By the way, before I forget. A Thai Elder in my district, our district leader, was trained by Elder Shill. He told me to tell you that by that merit - he being my older brother and me being the younger brother – he is a member of the family. His name is Elder Panom. He's awesome. He speaks Thai so clearly and is an awesome missionary!

So, more Thonburi crazy news. Why is it that I meet more deaf people in Thailand than I ever did in America? Since I have been in Thailand - three times in the past 4 months! Once in Chiang Mai at a market. Then TWICE in Thonburi. A deaf girl lives on the street by the Church. She speaks TSL and it's about like me hearing Isaan and understanding. And then yesterday there was a very interesting experience.

After sacrament meeting, I noticed a woman who I had not seen at Church before. Then Sister Cherry came up and asked me if one of us spoke sign language. At that time I was shocked by the question and we had to teach the class last minute so I said "krappom" which means like... yes/a particle to make things polite. Turns out the women I noticed is deaf, speaks ASL is a member and just moved back here to learn and work with her family. One thing led to another. I found out she didn't come to Church here because there was no one to interpret but came to Church today to talk with the bishop and found me. So I used my shaky ASL skills to interpret the Sunday School lesson. Wow. Talk about hard. My ASL is rusty and it's hard because I have to get it to English first then to ASL just because I can understand Thai without putting it to English but my brain isn't used to getting it to ASL so I had to get it to a language that I could interpret to and from. But she understood. Her father is a less-active member of the branch. We are going to go see him this week. I also interpreted for a bishop's interview. That was interesting too. Wow! More than just random if I say so. I don't quite get it - what are the chances. She only speaks ASL not TSL. She told me a bit about herself. It was an interesting and very memorable experience. She will be coming to Church from now on and I will be interpreting for sacrament meeting. Never know when your ASL comes in handy. Every one of my friend's predictions came true. I used ASL in Thailand. Spanish - not yet.

But this week was great. Switch offs with the new zone leader Elder Gonglaa, a Thai Elder, was fun. He's a great guy. Our area is slowly but surely getting better and better. Keep praying we will find investigators. Cherry and Num couldn't meet this week or attend Church unfortunately. But we will be working with them continuously. I have faith that they will continue to progress. I know prayers work. Anyway, thanks for everything. Thanks for the pictures, the support and the prayers. Always remember that there are souls to lift and people to help all around you, so go out and do it!


Elder Jacob Newman

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cherry and Num

July 20, 2010

Dearest Family,

I love Thonburi. It's hot and the rejections are pretty intense but I love this place. It's here where I really became acquainted with the feelings of God about His children. I knew God loved his children but I didn't know how much he really did until I came here and I saw God's hand in their lives.

It's here that I have had some of the greatest Isaan food in the country. Even the taam sang here is pretty good. Bangkok has too many treats all over the place. Seriously, if we weren't walking all day I would get fat. From shaved ice, to waffles, fruit that's sweeter than sugar to 7-11s galore, Bangkok and the Thai economy run off of the food industry.

The smell of khlongs, the taste of sweat from every pore and the grime all combine against a background of rowed houses and apartment complexes with some of the most beautiful temples you can imagine. We walk all over, combing the sois for people to talk to, people to teach. And sometimes it rains, especially in the rainy season. Soaked, tired, but, oh, so happy.

We had some interesting experiences of being rejected this week but we continued to work hard and in the end it's paying off because of our two miraculous investigators. Moves is now upon us and I won't be going to moves. There will, however, now be two greenies in Thonburi. What a crazy time. I can't believe it. Elder Perich is going to get a greenie.

In the Bangkok Stake there are 13 wards/branches. There isn't enough membership to support that. In fact what happened to Thonburi is that they split it off into three branches too quickly. At one point Thonburi had 100+ members coming out. But when they split it into the two and then three branches it left the mother branch, Thonburi, weak. Of course, at that point it seemed like growth would let them split the Stake. Thonburi needs more members to function as a ward. Please pray that we can find people who will become attached to the Gospel. Please pray that members will return to activity. We want to help this branch and help these people in this city to see the power of the atonement.

I want to talk about the greatest experiences and the greatest lessons. Cherry and Num. Wow! I have never had investigators quite like this. I can't believe them. We introduced the plan of salvation last time. But before that they told us two incredible experiences. One was a dream of a friend who doesn't know they are learning with us. He said he saw Num holding a gold book, like the gold plates, and that he was cherishing it. And the other one is even more amazing. When we introduced the three degrees of glory, Num and Cherry both smiled. Num shared an experience of how he was reading the bible and praying about heaven before he ever knew anything about the Church and he said that God told him that the kingdom of heaven has three kingdoms - three levels. I was floored. They are keeping commitments better than any investigator I have ever seen. They read the scriptures daily, pray daily. They even read the Joseph Smith history. Cherry asked me to help her sign up for the Liahona and she wanted a Pearl of Great Price. They love the scriptures and are learning so well.

As for me, I love training. It's so awesome. And I realize it's an intense responsibility. Sometimes situations are hard and life gets hard but you always have the Savior to help you. Of course, I know on my mission I haven't seen that many baptisms or anything like that. Often we view missionary work as baptism. But what is missionary work really? Missionary work is an invitation to experience a mighty change of heart, to come unto Christ. Missionary work is about loving these people even if they reject your teachings. Missionary work is being an example of the Savior in word and deed. I know that the Savior watches out for us. Even on the days that it's hard. I know God loves these people so much. Even if they don't know Him, He loves them. And I love them too.

I know that this is the place I need to be right now. I am grateful for all of your support. Sorry if it's a short letter, I am so tired today! It's exhausting here in Bangkok for some reason. But I'm so grateful to be doing this with a great companion and in a great area.

I love you all,


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, July 12, 2010

Thonburi Is a Magical Place

July 12, 2010

Dear Family,

What a week. Thonburi is a magical place. I can't describe my feelings for this place really. I love it in such a deep way. I loved Chiang Mai for its beauty, its members and the things I learned. Thonburi I love because of how much more have I come to know God. This week I saw that God knows His children so personally. I have learned that on my mission but I didn't see how real it was until this week. And a miracle. Despite all the hours in the sun of proselytizing where we couldn't find anyone out on the streets, this one event made the entire week worth it. Well two events.

We taught another family. We've taught them two times. He wants to see results from the gospel but he's not quite ready to act. She's interested but shy about it. He doesn't see how the gospel will bring his family more happiness. But I know that it will.

Besides that we have had some good experiences inviting. There's this street called Thaa Ding Daeng that we went to that was SO CROWDED. If I were to give someone a taste of Bangkok Thai life, I would take them there on the weekend. There were children running in the streets, people eating rice on mats outside of their houses, street vendors everywhere, people talking and sitting out in the streets. Thai people living their lives.

It's so different from America. In America, we have become isolated from each other due to cars, homes, etc. In Thailand everyone is literally one big family. It's funny to be here in Bangkok where they speak Thai all the time and so I understand almost everything. Addressing each other as big brother/sister, little brother/sister, grandmother, uncle, aunt, mother, father. Thai is such a close language. Everyone has a relationship with everyone. It's not just you - you is a member of your family. You is said like big brother or you is aunt or you is father. Children and parents will use their title as a pronoun. Fathers will say things like "Daddy thinks you're great." I love that aspect of Thai culture. Thai life is wonderful.

We have been talking to so many people I can't even count how many we have been talking to. And Thai people are always nice about not being interested- they always say that they don't have time and say it with a smile. I love that about Thailand - sure it's somewhat frustrating when they feel grengjay to learn with us - but I love how nice Thai people are. From other news this week, we taught about the word of wisdom at a university, had a great English class, and a lot of appointments fell through.

On Tuesday we went to teach Cherry and Num. We introduced the restoration and the Book of Mormon. It was a powerful spiritual lesson that was taught in their shop where they sell bags by a port near a major hospital here in Thonburi. They wanted to read the Book of Mormon. They told us their story and I have never felt anyone quite like this before. Cherry and Num have been Christian for quite a while. Two weeks ago, however, they didn't feel like they could stay at their Church for some reason. They felt uncomfortable and out of place. They went outside and read the Bible together and said they read a verse in Isaiah that talked about being lead to the promised land of milk and honey. Sister Awm, their member friend, gave them an article from the Liahona and they loved it. Cherry said that the thought of that scripture came back into her mind as we taught her. She felt as if she was being led to the promised land of milk and honey. They both were extremely dedicated to keeping their commitments.

A few days later, Elder Seymour and I went out inviting - after being turned down many times and after having many appointments fall through, we were walking by a place called "The Mall Thaa Phra." And amazingly, we ran into Cherry. The exact time we were walking by she was waiting for Num while he took something to be fixed at The Mall. Bangkok is so big. How is it possible we could have met that day? She proceeded to tell me this, "Elder. I've been reading every day. And I received an answer. I've received so many answers as I have read from the Book of Mormon. I know it's true." I was floored. I have never had an investigator who received an answer in two days like she did. She also said she and Num need another copy because they "fight" over who gets to read the Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, they were stuck at work so they couldn't go to Church this Sunday. They will have concerns, mostly Num about the idea of the Restoration and the difference between mainstream Christianity. But I want to say this: God knows us. God more than just casually knows us. Things in life happen for a reason and people we meet influence our lives in profound ways. He prepares us and nurtures us. I cannot deny this from this experience. Please pray that Num will find regular work that can allow him to come to Church on Sunday. And please pray that they will understand the things we teach and progress. Pray that they will have a desire to go to Church and to receive the Restored Gospel.

Having a loog - a kid – ลูก - is such a transforming experience - being a trainer that is. I have never really felt this concerned for the welfare of someone else before. It's literally like having a child. I feel like he teaches me more than I teach him. Sure, he doesn't have as much experience with Thai but Thai's only a fraction of what we do. He knows what's right and he follows God. He works hard and has a good attitude. We are working hard to find investigators and I know that together we will accomplish miracles. We have seen so many things already. Opening a new area is not easy and Thonburi is tricky but I know that there are people just waiting. We don't know where they are until we go out there and try. I know that God has a plan for us. I don't know why this moves has worked out exactly the way it has but it has been the best moves of my mission. The days we feel the power of God in the lives of others - that's success. Success comes from the one. And we never know how the one can change our lives forever. It all starts out with a seed.

Thonburi's members are awesome. There are few of them but I swear every week more and more members are coming to Church. I don't know how it's possible. Please pray that these members will continue to come back and that this ward will flourish! I know that as we work together and pray together, it will happen! Thonburi has so much potential and these people here are amazing. I can't forget that and I never will.

Thailand is an amazing place. Miracles happen everyday, we just have to see them. I still have my sense of humor, I promise. It's there, it's just life is serious sometimes. Thanks for everything. I love you all so much and pray for you daily.

With Love,

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thonburi Is an Adventure

July 5, 2010

Dearest Family,

Wow. What a week. Figuring out Thonburi is an adventure and a half that's for sure. I am just barely starting to get it a little bit. But it's still so confusing. Thailand street systems and the sheer crowdedness of Thonburi are insane. As we walk along the streets there are literally people everywhere. Imagine this scene - the streets are full of motorcycles that you can hire to drive you places, there are noodle stands, restaurants to order taam sang food - rice, vegetables and meat in different kinds of combinations - Isaan places, people selling shoes, knickknacks, students, construction workers, dogs, smoke, heat, the smell of fried treats, rotting fruit and the nearby khlong - Thai waterway. And all around us, everywhere - there are children of God. All created by the same person. Elder Seymour commented on that as we were by Rachaphat Thonburi - a university in Thonburi. There were countless students and fruit vendors, people everywhere. The heat and the pressure on the soys are somehow exhilarating. Wow - from jamming into the crowded buses to getting stuck in taxis in traffic jams.

Anyway, this week was great. We saw lots of great things. Lots of disappointments, but in the end, we are out here hitting the pavement and putting in our hours of hard work because this is the best work ever! Sure it's hard and it's hot but wow it's fun and amazing to see people change and see how even one thing can change the whole day. It's sad to see when people don't see the importance of our message - that families can be together forever - but I know that as we simply put forth our efforts we can and will see miracles. I have faith. And I know my companion, who is the best, does too.

Tuesday was zone conference. They are focusing on teaching families more. I agree that the only way Thailand will progress is to bring families into the Church. Getting into the door of families is much harder but so worth it. So as we invite, we like to ask people to sit down as a family. Please pray that we will continue to meet families who are ready to prepare to have the gospel. I know that teaching families we can help Thailand have the temple that the members want so badly. I know this is possible because God gave us families. I feel so grateful for a family that loves me. Do we realize what we have? Do we realize how lucky we are to have one another? I love you all so much and I want to help the Thai people to have what we have: The Gospel and the knowledge that we can be together forever, no matter what might happen around us.

English is picking up in Thonburi. I'm English leader and I love it. Please pray that we will get investigators from English. I love, love teaching English. Wow. It's just so fun. And in Thonburi there are so many people who want to learn English.

As far as the rest of the week - our appointments fell through - a lot. And by a lot, I mean a ton. And we ended up looking for people to teach. I felt a bit frustrated that no one seemed to be getting it. So we fasted for more investigators this Saturday. The whole mission did actually.

And then something quite miraculous happened. I arrived at Church and greeted a sister that I had never seen before. Her name is Sister Awm. Sister Awm hasn't come to Church too much because of her work. But today she came. And she brought two investigators. They turned out to live in our area. They are named Cherry and Num. They are looking for the true Church. They have been to many Churches but haven't found the Church that's right. They came to Church for all three hours. Smiled broadly and loved every minute. We are going to be meeting with them this week. This was an answer to prayers. Please hope and pray that they work out and that we will be able to teach them and help them. It was truly a miracle. Member referrals in Thailand are rare. And this couple sounds and feels amazing.

Then the Olsons showed up after sacrament meeting. Sister Cherry said that there was an investigator waiting for me at the front of the Church. It was the Olsons. A surprise? Yes. Especially on a day where there were 5 investigators at Church - a milestone for Thonburi that hasn't had more than 1 investigator at Church in forever. They got videos and pictures of me. They were so nice. I translated for them. They were nice and it was great to see them. They love Thailand. They sounded like they had a good time in Phukket. It was fun to see them and to see their reactions to Thailand.

Alrighty. That's it for today. I do want to say that I love you all very much and I am so grateful for this time to be a missionary here in Thailand. I am so grateful for the Thai people and their hearts. Please pray for us. I pray for you all daily and love you all so much. Please be safe and happy and healthy. Rely on God and always remember the power of the atonement is so real.

Love lots,

Elder Jacob Newman