Monday, August 30, 2010

Elder Seymour and Elder Newman at Wat Arun


What a Week!

August 30, 2010

Dearest Family,

What a week! I have never been so tired during my mission. This deal with the meeting they had in Bangkok made things crazy. But the week was really great. Thonburi is the most worthwhile area I have ever been in. We've seen miracles as we have worked together to try to help this ward and area grow. We are going to start working more closely with the Bishop.

I can't believe how fast the time is passing. It seems just like yesterday I was a greenie in Bangkapi, just yesterday I was hearing Laotian on the streets, just yesterday I was in Chiang Mai eating Khaaw Soy. And then to hear about Brother Sakhaa coming back to Thailand. I can't wait to be able to actually see him should he be here in Thailand. I want to be able to speak Thai with him now that I can speak Thai. He has been such an influence in my life. I love him for teaching me that missionary work is about this - the Thai people. It isn't about the glory, the fame, the ability or the skill. What missionary work comes down to is helping our brothers and sisters understand their potential as humans. We are preparing for the eternal inheritance which God has prepared for us since before we existed as we know it. When we were with God, God prepared a marvelous plan that would allow us to reach our potential. God knew our potential and wanted to help us reach it. The Thai people have that potential. We all have that potential within us. We are not simply another human. We are children of God. Brother Sakhaa helped me understand. I think before I met him, I sort of understood. But I didn't understand on the level that he taught me.

You asked me if I always study the Gospel in Thai or spend some time in English. I study the gospel in English always. Although I will sometimes open the Thai for clarification. Often the Thai translation will help us understand more. That’s because of the pronouns. We can tell very clearly when God is talking to us because he will use a certain pronoun (the royal we) and he will use the word for you that is only used by royalty.

You also asked what it means when people say that Asoke is the “Belly of the Beast.” Wow. How to describe Asoke? Take my images of Thonburi that I've given you before and multiply its intensity by about 10. It's called that because it's all skyscrapers, full of people and really western. Siam Paragon. All kinds of hotels, fancy foods, but mostly just tons and tons of people. The BTS (Skytrain) and MRT (Underground) are SO crowded. There are so many people all over the place but they all live in the suburbs of Bangkok - Bangkapi, Bangkhae, etc. Asoke is the heart of Bangkok. It's a crazy place! It's where one of the first chapels in Thailand was and it's also where the translator of the Book of Mormon lives. I would love to meet her. Her name is Mother Sri (the r is never pronounced in Thai if it is after an S, it's simply a spelling thing.)

Elder Seymour's Thai has made massive strides! He speaks Thai so skillfully now. And he reads and writes so well too! I have been working on Thai with him 24/7. As we invite, I literally will teach him Thai principles all the time. I don't know what I will do when I can't talk about Thai with him all the time. And my Thai this moves has shot off because explaining things to him has helped me understand SO much more!

My time in Thonburi has taught me that as children of God, we must be taken care of and loved. As members of the Church, the road will not be easy, nor will it be simple. But in reality, the road towards eternity isn't meant to be that way. If it were easy, it just wouldn't be worthwhile. Thonburi has millions of people just waiting to hear the news about being children of God, about that divine potential.

This week as we taught a new investigator, Sutheb shared with us how he prayed daily, read the scriptures daily and desired to come to Church. He wants to see his potential as a child of God. I asked him a question. “Uncle, do you want to a regular person? An ordinary person?” When he said no, I told him that through the gospel, we become something greater than regular, we can become something extraordinary. We can become the kind of person who has happiness, the kind of person who has the right perspective about life and the kind of person who is like the Savior Jesus Christ. We have the potential to inherit that divine inheritance from our Heavenly King. In Thai it's just so perfect, because the word for child of God is the word for prince and princesses. I love that. God in Thai is the heavenly king. Thai expresses the love we have for him as our King. I love Him. Heavenly Father loves us all and He wants us all to be happy. God doesn't want us to be miserable. If he wanted us to be miserable, He wouldn't be a very good father. It's just at times as children we think we know what's best for us. But in reality, our Father in Heaven - He knows. Sometimes we must learn the things that are most important. Is money important? Not as important as family. Not as important as the anchor of the Gospel.

We are seeing a turn around in Thonburi. Next week the other Elders’ investigators are getting baptized. Sister Apple (Buen), Sugar (Naamtaan) and Ding, a family minus their father - who's not interested yet - are all getting baptized. The first baptism in Thonburi in possibly over two years. It's a miracle! She's a miracle and is a great investigator. It's all a matter of time.

I love you all. Thank you for all your support!


Elder Jacob Newman

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This Week Was Crazier Than Most

August 25, 2010

Dearest Family,

Welcome to another Thonburi week. This week was crazier than most. There was a major training meeting in Bangkok for all leaders. So our schedule was MESSED up. Switch-offs. Changing preparation day. Everything is crazy and up in the air. Right now, today is our preparation day. We went to Din Daeng to do "switch-offs" only to be told that we were actually going to be returning home the next day rather than doing switch-offs. The meeting involves only leaders in the mission - District Leader, Zone Leader, etc. So, I didn't go. But with switch-offs and people staying at our house, it's been a mess. Somewhat fun but mostly tiring! I am very tired. But today we are going to see a VERY beautiful wad so that will be good. It's called Wad Arun. Anyway, besides that all is pretty well.

This week I had the realization that my mission hasn't turned out exactly the way that I had expected it to turn out. I think of it as a journey of self development and discovery. From the villages of Bangkok, to the Isaan rice fields and up บนดอย (That's upon the mountains in Northern - bon doy), and back to the heart of metropolitan Bangkok. I didn't really expect to have the experiences that I've had. I didn't expect to be given the challenges that I have been given. And yet in the end, I wouldn't trade it. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, we might question our challenges. But when it comes down to it, life is about strength. Strength is something we must find deep within ourselves from our Father in Heaven. And sometimes we might only simply be an influence in a minor way.

Since my time in Thonburi, I've seen a lot of disappointments. I've seen a lot of heartache. And I've felt a lot of feelings. But if there's anything I learn from Thonburi, it's that God watches out for us. Even if sometimes, we don't fully understand. As we walk down the soys, passing houses full of people, as we walk down streets crowded with street vendors who haven't made more than three dollars that day, we see human suffering. And our suffering, our pains and sorrows seem minuscule. Thonburi needs this help. Thonburi needs the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our effort is paving the way for future miracles. We will see miracles here in Thonburi.

Thonburi has won a spot in my heart. From the sheer amount that I have tried to help this area work to the number of hours I have spent talking to people in soys and on the streets, I know Thonburi better than I know Salt Lake City. I've never had an area that I have known as well as Thonburi. I could literally map out exactly how it is, how the soys work and what the soys are like.

Sacrifice. That's what a mission is about. It's not about baptisms, glory, fame, honor. It's not a matter of how good we are at Thai or how skillful we are. In the end, it's about sacrifice and the sacrifice of self. We don't look at this sacrifice as a burden, but we think of how sacrifice is a process of purification. Sacrifice is the process by which men become like God. Sacrifice is the means by which we see His power upon the earth. Sacrifice is the power by which salvation was wrought. Our lives must become more like that of the Savior.

Zone Conference this past week was very good. I enjoyed it. I don't have any particular thing I want to share. It was great to be there with everyone. Also, the food made by the member who calls everyone "luug" (child) was awesome and delicious.

This week in Thonburi I heard an amazing phrase. We were walking down a soy. For my entire mission, I have wanted to walk down a soy and find someone. I think this past week we might have found that someone. At first I almost didn't invite him but then I did. He then said something to me that I will not forget. คุณเป็นบุตรของ God that came to find me. He said you are the son of God that came to find me. I felt impressed and touched. After all the days of hard finding. After all the time that I tried to do my best, someone said this to me. Even if nothing had come of this investigator, I would have still been touched to know that God was in this happening. His name is Sutheb. Theb is the word for angel. He speaks English wonderfully well. We've taught him two times and he shows potential.

Besides that, Cherry and Num are not able to be contacted at this time. Sadly, I don't know what happened with them. They have testimonies. They just need to act on them.

As far as other happenings in Thonburi. English class is awesome here. I will miss all of my students when I move. Also we went to the Bishop's house for their adorable one-year old's party for a little bit. There was laab and khanom jiin. It was way good. I love the bishop and Sister Cherry. They are a wonderful family and a wonderful example of gospel living.

Thonburi is a place that I will always remember. Not because of the amount of investigators. But because of the power of God that I have felt here. I love this place with all my heart. I've grown so close to the members. I've tried to help them the best I can. And I hope that I, one day, will see the results of our efforts.

I know that Christ lives. Last night we read third Nephi 11 in class for English. Everyone got quiet. The room had been so rowdy. Then, we read of the sacred ministry of the risen Christ and his invitation for the people to come and feel the wounds in his hands and in his sides. I love the Lord. I know the Thai people need Him.

I love you all and pray for you all,

With Love,

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thonburi Weeks

August 16, 2010

Dearest Family,

It's so crazy to think about how things past so quickly. My time in Thailand. One year in country this last week. Wow! That was a crazy moment. And here I am training in the heart of Bangkok. Was this in my plans? Nope. Is it the best thing ever? Yes.

Welcome to Thonburi weeks. I am so attached to Thonburi. Actually, this week was great. I didn't feel as stressed out and while I still feel tired - that's mostly from the Bangkok air and environment. But this week we saw some great progress along with another switch-offs with the Zone Leaders. I got a chance to see the other side of Bangkok. Talk about the city!

The Asoke Zone Leaders’ area is HUGE. We rode the BTS from place to place. Imagine a jungle of concrete. Imagine some of the most beautiful and fancy buildings you've seen - from Siam Paragon - literally called the Pride of Bangkok - to the tallest building in Bangkok. Neighborhoods are overshadowed by hundreds of skyscrapers. The Thai Bangkok city life is very evident - people who work and live in the same place - running little 7-11 like places, living with their families and living with their extended relations. Imagine all of this with subways, the BTS, boats and everything in between to get around. Their area is huge and has SO many people. Like Thonburi, however, it takes creativity to get to these people. Asoke would be a very fun place to be should I get to serve there someday.

As far as the rest of the week in Thonburi - we saw some awesome things for Mother's Day in Thailand. Happy Thai Mother's day by the way, Mother! Thai Mother's day is a big deal! Fireworks, parties, it's a holiday and there's people everywhere at the Sanaam Luang. It was an interesting and very cultural experience. I really thought about how much Thai people value family. I think I've mentioned this before but people work so hard for their families here. Taxis will go out and work for 12 to 14 hours to support their family. They come from the Isaan to work so that their kids can learn at better schools and hopefully have a better future than that of their parents. Usually both parents work to support their children in learning. Family is everything to Thai people. They work long hours and in an ironic sense they can't be there for the people they sacrifice so much for because they are working for them.

Long hours. Sweat. Sacrifice. I have seen the sacrifice of so many Thai members. Just imagine the translator of the Book of Mormon - she sacrificed everything for the Church. Imagine the average members who often sacrifice personal comforts to serve in the Church. Take Bishop Arun for example. He has been a bishop most of his married life because the Church just needs him. The Church in Thailand needs every soul - especially the Thonburi ward whose active membership is fairly low. It needs every soul to help run the ward! One person cannot do it alone. We need to help one another.

This week we met lots of new investigators who have some potential. From Mod (Ant) who told us that we were representatives of the Lord, to a family - Michael (except said Michun because Thais can't say l's at the end of words) and Taa - to a few others who have some potential, I really feel as if Thonburi is going to see progression. At this time we still can't contact Cherry and Num and neither can their friend, Sister Awm. They have testimonies, they just need to act. It's very heartbreaking for me to see how they have been unable to act on their faith. They will be baptized, I feel, we must just have patience.

Patience. That's the greatest lesson from Thonburi. Patience is not just simply waiting - patience is action. Patience brings us closer to the Lord and causes us to reflect on what we must do in order to be closer to him. I know that all these things, all these challenges in Thonburi haven't been because God doesn't care. In fact, God cares so intimately. The challenges of Thonburi were given to me because God knew I could do it and knew that for some reason I needed to come here. Maybe it was only to open the area to pave the way for future success. But no matter what it is, I know that God is watching out for us. I know that He cares for us so powerfully.

Anyway, this week was awesome. I know I'm learning a lot. Please pray that the Spirit will guide us and that we won't get too wet! Thank you so much for all your support. I love you all and pray for you daily. Never forget the gem that the Gospel is!

With Love,

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Joy of Thonburi

August 9, 2010

Dearest Family,

Ahh.. The joy of Thonburi. How I love it here, from the branch and the development of our area to the love that I feel from the members. I love so many of the members here in Thonburi. They have strong testimonies, know their role, and desire to help.

This week was another great week. We got to teach a lot actually! I was rather surprised how much we ended up teaching. I hope the pattern will continue. Inviting in Thonburi is a bit interesting. Inviting here - as in street contacting/tracting - is an art. People in Bangkok are hurried. They don't have lots of time. They are always running on buses, song taews, saam laws, and all kinds of other transportation devices. There are not many "neighborhoods" in Thonburi. The typical Thai soys are full of buildings where people are working - sometimes out of their homes. In contrast, Thonburi is full of tall buildings where people live in condos, apartments, rooms for rent. These people are often tricky to get to if only because they don't live the traditional Thai way of life where you live on the soy and your life is right outside your front door.

I love the Thai way of life. Thais don't have doors or porches like we do. Their houses are almost more like garages if we were to compare them to America. Their doors are always open unless it rains. Thai people in Bangkok don't like the rain. And this time of year it's the rainy season. When it rains, it pours. No joke. I have never seen so much rain in my life.

Sadly Cherry and Num aren't progressing. They are so busy with work they can't really meet with us or attend Church. But Sister Awm is coming to Church and is going to keep helping them see the importance of what is going on. They want to come to Church. They want to learn. They know it's true, they must just act. That's the thing I have learned. Knowledge alone isn't enough. It takes action. We must act if we want to taste the fruit of the gospel. We must struggle sometimes. The path towards Zion isn't always an easy one, but it's a worthwhile journey.

As I learned from Elder Uchtdorf's talk on patience, patience is a journey. We must keep pressing forward on the path towards eternal life and sanctification through our patience. God has his timetable. And it’s a hard thing to accept sometimes. I wanted to see so much happen in Thonburi right away. I wanted investigators instantly. I wanted things to work out like they were working out when I left Chiang Mai - an area that was doing well despite challenges - an area that had weeks where we found new investigators almost everyday. But Thonburi just takes patience. We are building the foundation to help this branch in the future. There may be challenges but I refuse to let challenges stand in my way. With God, we can do all things. We must remember that the children of God are out there, waiting. I know that as we keep working, all things are possible. We are seeing miracles as we simply put our trust in Him. Action. That's the key. Hard work.

The mission motto of the Thailand Bangkok Mission is something I recite everyday with Elder Seymour. Faith is the power. Obedience is the price. Love is the motivation. Preach my Gospel is the way. The Spirit is the key. Christ is the reason. That last one always gets to me. He's the reason. We must testify of His atonement.

If we talk about turning points in my life, I can see countless places where my life changed a little bit. But I remember times when I felt a definite change. The greatest changing point however was when I realized who my best friend really was - Jesus Christ. He was always there for me no matter how much I hurt or messed up. I've never felt the love of him greater than when I felt it as my life began to change. I love the Lord Jesus Christ. I am not ashamed to wear his name badge or to testify of Him because He changed my life. Cheesy? Maybe. Real? Yes. Christ changed my life in such a profound way. I found true happiness and the real direction in my life. I went to BYU, went on a mission. Things always work out. Somehow. Wow!

This week was great. Elder Seymour's awesome. We're working hard. And I love it. I have lots of things on my mind right now but I know that families are forever and that you all are amazing. I know this work is so worth it.

I love you all,


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, August 2, 2010

Another Thonburi Week

August 2, 2010

Hello Dearest Family,

Another Thonburi week. Welcome to the most crowded and most wonderful place in Bangkok. I've never had quite the attachment to an area like I have with this one. Granted, I am attached to all of my areas but I feel so personally invested in this one. I guess it's because before last moves this area didn't exist. Our part of Thonburi hasn't really had missionaries do missionary work this intensely before.

We are in the Thonburi, Khlong Saan, Bangkok Yay area. All of these areas are full of people. Describing how many people there are that live in our section of Thonburi is almost impossible. Apartment complexes that we can't proselytize are all over the place. There are families and individuals along the streets, eating food, playing badminton, enjoying the weather until it rains - when it rains the streets are completely vacant - and enjoying their lives. You see people running on their motorcycles from place to place. You hear the sound of cars no matter where you are. Smoke. Skyline. The smell of Thai peppers, khlongs, treats. Sevens on every corner.

You asked if I ever get to do fun things that are truly Thai. Oh man! I do that every day. Eat Somtum, naam tog, khaw muu yang, with my hands. Eat with a spoon in my right hand a fork in the left. Eat along the street. Go to Seven. Eat pandan custard. Then sit on the ground with investigators. Wai investigators and people we meet. Speak Thai - you can't get more Thai than that. Talk on the phone with my mouth covered. And just being here. When we talk about true Thai, there's so much that comes to mind. But everyday is an adventure. Sometimes we just forget how much of an adventure it is.

As far as this week, we saw some good things but we also saw some disappointing things. So is the life of a missionary. But we must remember that we don't do this for fame or even to be particularly liked, it's because we love the people.

Alrighty, Thonburi tales. So as far as what happened this week. Elder Seymour gets better at Thai EVERY day. It's crazy. To see his progress is amazing. He speaks more clearly every single day. His grammar is getting better. His tones are become nice and clear. He's such a great greenie. He has helped me so much this moves. I really needed a friend to help me open up this area. And luckily I got someone who I would consider to be one of my best friends ever. We've been through a LOT together so I feel that that has brought us close together. I don't know how else to describe it.

This week I went to Bangkhae to teach English with Elder Tom. It was fun and not too stressful. After that I switched off in Bangkhae with Elder Tom. It was a good switch offs. It was funny. I actually met up with the ward mission leader from Chiang Mai, Brother Ped! He moved to Bangkhae to be with his mother and to start life anew in Bangkok. So we went to see his mom and start the teaching process with her because right now she's learning with the Jehovah witnesses. So, I met up with him and found out how Chiang Mai and Elder Jensen are doing. I miss Elder Jensen!

Elder Seymour taught Cherry and Num. They are still progressing, sort of. But they MUST start coming to Church again or they will never be able to get baptized. We set a goal with them to be baptized this last week and committed them to Church. Unfortunately they slept in again this week. I was a little disappointed. I feel disappointed because they are prepared and ready to receive the Gospel, they must just act and do the things that will bring them unto Christ. They are going to have to keep working. Sister Awm, their friend, came to Church this week and Cherry and Num said they would come but they did not yet come. Unfortunately.

But, we press forward and work to find other new investigators. We had some good attitude and our finding went very well. I love going out inviting even if it gets tiring. Sometimes we will get tired but as long as we forget ourselves and go to work, we will find! Finding investigators is an experience in which we rely completely upon our Heavenly Father and pray that they will open the door to the two of us. We must rely on the Savior to help us with the rejection and the appointments that fall through. And then we have experiences that help us realize the power of our Savior.

Yesterday we were exhausted, fasting, inviting in the beating sun. I was so tired and thirsty. We met two potentials we will be visiting today and another one that we taught yesterday. The one we taught yesterday was so kind and he seems sincere. We are trying hard to find families, too. That's who we desire to teach. We want to help the ward have more families so they can have a more complete leadership and a larger support network - building Zion.

I love the Thai people. The love of God. I talk about that every week. But every week I learn a little bit more about it. I come to see God's feelings towards his children. I come to realize that in the end, God is the one in charge, not me. I know that He will watch out for us as we do the things He has asked us to do. I know I came here for a reason. God called me to Thailand. Everyday, I try to remember that. God knew that I could do this. God knew I could speak Thai – maybe - and that I could help His work here in Thailand. God has a calling for all of us, great and small. We so often don't realize how much influence we have in the lives of others. I have grown to love every person who's been in my life. Especially family. I am so grateful to have that support network that everyone here in Thailand craves. I am grateful for the opportunity to love these people and to serve among them. The rain might pour, the heat will beat down upon us but that doesn’t matter.

I want to thank you for your love. Please pray for Cherry and Num. Help them come to Church. Pray for us to keep seeing miracles. Our good attitude and our love can go a long way!

I love you all and miss you all,

Elder Jacob Newman