July 26, 2010
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