Monday, September 27, 2010

I Am a Thonburite

September 27, 2010

Dearest Family,

Yesterday I sat at Church and I thought how I consider Thonburi to be my home. When I first came to Thonburi, I never thought I would get so attached to such a tiny branch with so few members. I never knew how much I could love a ward until I came to this little struggling ward on the Thonburi side of Bangkok. The other day I saw a shirt that said "I am a Thonburite - คนฝั่ง Thon - I can't find the letter I need to spell Thon correctly. But I thought of my time here in Thonburi. In my heart, I will always be a Thonburite. I love this side of the river. I love Thonburi. From every member, who might as well be adopted siblings, parents, aunts and uncles to me, to the sheer love I have for the area, I love Thonburi so much. It's a place of miracles and a place that I will always love.

We did exchanges with the Zone Leaders this week, I was with Elder McConkie. It was a good time. We were together for two days. We got a chance to find a really good new investigator named Athiwad. He has a lot of potential and he was met in the most random way - down a soy full of disinterested people, this man said hello to us in English and at first I wasn't sure if he would be interested, but he turned out to be the most interested person we met that day. He almost went to Church yesterday but he didn't have anyone to watch his house so he couldn't go. We taught him. As we taught him, he said "In the past I have been a bad person but I want to change" That's what the gospel about. The Gospel is about the change of self - into a true saint and disciple of Jesus Christ. And sometimes as we teach the Gospel, we find that the ones who change the most aren't our investigators, but rather us.

Thonburi hasn't had a ton of investigators that have learned for long periods of time. But as I have taught those I have, I have realized how we must evaluate our priorities in life. I have learned that I must stay close to our Father in Heaven. In the end, all things will fall apart and fade, the only things that don't fade are the truths that we cherish. As I sat there and heard this man say that he wanted to repent, I thought of how Our Father in Heaven wanted so much for his child to talk to him. That's what God really wants from our prayers - is us simply talking with him - a lesson I learned from Brother Nuy in Nongkhai. Imagine this - God has waited for thirty or forty years to talk to some of his children. For some of his children, they never get the chance to talk to him at all. Imagine the feelings of a tender parent who never gets to talk to their child. We must learn to simply talk with God.

The sad thing about yesterday was is that Sutheb missed Church for the second week in a row. This week, he revealed some concerns that I didn't see coming. We are going to have to be praying that he will have a desire to sincerely follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. I know that he was prepared to meet us but he will take some work to fully repent. He's not an easy investigator. But I love him and he has a desire to be converted. He will take some time. The great things about yesterday include but are not limited to, a referral from a member from Bangkhen and an appointment to meet with a referral from the members of our own ward.

The referral from Bangkhen seems awesome. Her name is Bo and she is really interested and is going to be coming to Church this next week. I feel so happy to know that God is watching out for us. She lives by Wong Wian Yay. I have been down those soys so often but I have never run into her before. The soys in Thonburi are hard to describe. They are narrow and they are very full of people but it's a mystery where all these people live.

President Smith is very good. I like him a lot and I think he's doing a great job. He wants to help all the branches in the country to grow. He gave a talk about sharing the gospel in Thonburi that I think has caused some good action by the members. Our ward mission leader was pushed to action.

Anyway, this next week should be good. I love Thonburi with all my heart and there's going to be lots of good things happening here. I love seeing how the ward is slowing but surely changing. It will take time but I know that one day I will be able to come back and see the difference! One day Thonburi will have two wards and this side of the river will have a stake!

Love you all lots and pray for you daily,

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thonburi Is Picking Up

September 20, 2010

Hello Dearest Family,

You asked what Thai houses are like. Let me give you a brief description of the Bishop’s house. They live on one of the major soys in the north of Thonburi in an area called Baangphlad. It's called Chaeronsanitwong 75. This street is hard to describe exactly. Imagine constant traffic along a narrow soy - motorbikes, pedestrians, cars, taxis, and everything in between. Imagine countless food vendors selling everything from treats to rice while all around you there are people selling their wares and living the Thai life. They live on an outlet of this major street. You go into their house and take off your shoes, entering into almost a mud room base floor. Then you go up the steps into their family room and kitchen. The family room is the first thing you see. It has a bench, computer, television and two sofa chairs. Then their kitchen is to your right if you are facing towards the street they live on. You go up a step into the kitchen area. I think there is another floor. They live in fairly typical middle to upper-middle class Thai circumstances.

Their family is the most adorable and faithful family ever - I love Sister Cherry, Bishop Arun, Ivy, Navy and Davy. They all really love the gospel. He's the head of Church education in Thailand, a return missionary and a lifelong member. Sister Cherry is a convert. She told us her story: The missionaries came to see her neighbor, who wasn't interested but she said, "I was interested. I was baptized. My neighbor wasn't."

A couple of weeks ago Sister Cherry gave the most touching talk on family history. Family history in Thailand is extremely difficult if only due to the sheer lack of records. She talked about how she saw miracles as she worked to seal her family. The first time she went to the temple, she and her husband were sealed and she described her experience as she was sealed for her parents. At this point, tears filled her eyes. She said, "I can't describe the feeling that I felt as I knelt there; knowing that we could see each other again even though they died when I was young." I loved that talk and I love this ward with all my heart. This ward has some of the best Thailand has to offer.

Thonburi is picking up, slowly but surely. This week Sutheb didn't make it to Church since he was sick, but, we actually got two different investigators to Church. Tuy and Naet have good potential. Tuy enjoys reading the Book of Mormon. Naet is fascinated by the idea of being cleansed from sin. Their mother is also involved but she can't attend Church at this point. We are trying to help them understand that the feelings they feel as they pray are unique and special feelings from their Father in Heaven. I feel as if this family has some real potential to progress but only time will tell. We are going to continue to work to help them understand the most basic of all principles - who we are.

I have taken a new approach when I invite people - I tell people that God has an inheritance for them, an inheritance that as a son or daughter of Him we have a right to inherit. We come from the hand of God. And while sometimes we can't see or hear or feel Him, we still know that He loves us. If life worked out perfectly, would we learn anything? If life worked out just as we planned, what would the purpose of life be? We must have experiences in our life where we are tested and tried. I have come to realize what the real purpose of prayer is. The purpose of prayer isn't only to ask for blessings or to thank God, but to have an intimate and personal relationship with the Creator of all things. When we talk to God, we can just talk. We don't have to worry about what He will think because God loves us. God is our Father and we are His children.

I can't believe it's almost been three moves since I've been in Thonburi. Elder Iverson and I get along very well and it's been great here in Thonburi! I don't know what the future will hold. I know, however, that there was a reason I came to Thonburi. As far as the things I have learned, I would never trade Thonburi for anything. We often talk about the measure of success. The ultimate measure of our success lies not in what the world sees but in what God sees. God sees when we try. God sees when we love the people.

Right now it's raining really hard outside. Thonburi rains a lot. When I think of Thonburi days, I will think of lots of walking, talking lots of Thai, and smiling. I will think of Thai custard, laab burgers, introducing Elder Seymour to new foods and lots of hard work. Opening a new area is an endeavor for sure. I didn't expect it to work out the way it has but now I feel as if I have learned so much from it. I know that the Lord sent me here for some purpose.

I hope you all stay close to our Father in Heaven and that you remember how much the Savior loves us.

Love you all lots and pray for you daily. Thanks for all your prayers,

Elder Jacob Newman

Sunday, September 19, 2010

This Week Was Amazing

September 14, 2010

Dearest Family,

Yesterday we had a special conference with Elder Perkins that was really quite fantastic. There were a lot of great talks by President and Sister Smith along with President and Sister Perkins. I really enjoyed it a lot. They are changing the method of teaching at the MTC, so we are all learning about the new focuses. The new changes to the system will be good and will help us to help people feel the power of the gospel in their lives.

This week we saw some really great progress here in Thonburi. Thonburi has been my favorite area. Sure I loved all my areas, but Thonburi will always have a special place in my heart. From the members - the hilarious Sister Uy who works at the Marriott resort here in Thonburi, the bishop's amazing family - Sister Cherry and all, Brother Johnny's awesome family who runs a lot of the branch and Sister Ganjana who always seems to make us smile. From Brother Poniwat who has been a member since Thonburi opened for missionary work pretty much to Brother Bunchay a man who has Chinese ancestry who was converted, this ward has a lot of wonderful members that I will never forget. It's here that I really came to see what's important in life.

This week was amazing. We had some days that were really hard but Sunday made up for everything. We saw Sutheb a lot and he's progressing really quite well. He's been reading daily, he understands why we must go to Church and he loves learning about the teachings of Christ. He came to Church this week with his girlfriend and the members were great to them. Of course, it's always a bit awkward at first but they respect him and think he's a great guy. He's developing stronger and stronger faith in our Heavenly Father and in Christ. He's reading the Book of Mormon consistently and tells us how much he loves it when we come to teach. His girlfriend has come with him these past two weeks and she's now an investigator also. He wasn't the typical golden investigator. He didn't keep our first appointment and at first I wasn't sure about his desires. But anyone who comes to Church, reads daily, and introduces his friends is someone who has desire. He knows who he is.

We also saw another not-yet sort of kind of investigator at Church named Waan who is friends with Sister Ganjana. She has a desire to learn but is uncertain about learning with the Elders yet. It's a bit of an odd situation.
This week we ended up teaching a lot and seeing lots of great people. This is an amazing place. There's something so magical about Thonburi. The streets are really crowded, overflowing with people going to work, the market or selling their wares. The soys are narrow and full of people and there's a lot of rushing going on. But I have come to love this part of Bangkok so much.
Yesterday we had a testimony meeting at Zone Conference. I thought about my time in Thonburi and while it's been definitely not what I was anticipating, it's been probably the biggest blessing of my mission. We are starting to see things happen. Thonburi will be having investigators at Church for the foreseeable future. Thonburi before this was one struggling area, a ward on the verge of being a branch, but as we have tried our hardest, we are starting to see a kind of turnaround here. Granted, Thonburi won't be fixed in a day. Perhaps not even a year, but someday Thonburi won't be just one ward - it will be two. One day this side of Bangkok will be its own stake. We must have faith in God's timing for everything. Just because we don't see results instantly doesn't mean we shouldn't keep a positive outlook. If we keep a positive outlook and have faith, we can and will see miracles. We must continue to rely on the Savior and our Father in Heaven to see those miracles. Often the miracles are the simple things - the time the Thai grandmother smiles at you or the times people are so nice about your language. Sometimes God just tells us wait. Preparation precedes the miracle.
Also a little piece of advice: Always do your home and visiting teaching. That's a lesson I've learned very well in Thailand but particularly in Thonburi. We all need nourishment by the good word of God.
I love you all and pray for you daily. I know that God is watching out for all of us. He really does care and loves all of us.
Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Crazy Moves Meeting Week

September 6, 2010

Dearest Family,

What a crazy moves meeting week. I never thought my experience in Thonburi would turn out the way that it has. Needless to say, it's been such a blessing in my life. From meeting the Bishop's wonderful family and all these other AWESOME Thai members in Bangkok to coming to love this branch as if it were my home ward. I feel as if my greatest growth in Thailand has taken place here. The things that are important become so clear and the things that don't matter become rather obvious. I love the Lord so much more. I love the Thai people so much more. My patience has grown. My love for the work has grown. My Thai has grown But, most of all I came to see how life is a wonderful experience. It's what we make of it. If we make it hard, it will be hard. But if we learn that God has a purpose for us that we may not understand, we will be able to look back upon our lives and see the hand of God.

I arrived at moves meeting with Elder Seymour. We had a tricky week with switch offs in Bangkhae and with lots of appointments that didn't go through. But we arrived and sat down. Moves meeting gave us some good inspiration and we heard the news that they are opening a new Elders’ area in Asoke and one in Srinakarin also. Two “heart of Bangkok” areas - well one is suburban Bangkok and the other is VERY urban. And then I found out that I got Elder Iverson from Elder Seymour's group for my new companion. He's super skillful. His Thai is SO good, he's a hard worker and he has a great attitude. We get along really well.

Elder Seymour went to... get this... Yashothorn, about as rural as you can get. It's SO tiny. He's been riding his bike a ton. His new companion is my nong thai at the MTC Elder Phetvixay. He seems to be enjoying it - I had to talk to him to get a few things figured out this past week. He will be hearing a lot of Isaan rather than the typical Bangkok Thai he's used to but he will do great. He taught me so much. I will miss him so much.

I feel a change in the air of Thonburi. This past week we saw too many good things to be real. We saw Sutheb at Church. Not alone but with his girlfriend. He came to Church on time and really loved it. He's been praying and reading daily. This last time we visited him we committed him to think about when he would like to be baptized. He's eager. He told me he believes in the Savior. He always tells us that we were sent to find him. The day we met him was one of those days that I wasn't sure what to do. I was walking down a soy with Elder Seymour, feeling so frustrated. I almost passed him up because he didn't seem that interested. But then I really listened to what he had to say. He was crying out for something. He longed for something more than he could see. And for some reason, we were blessed enough to find him.

The other Elders’ investigators, Sister Buen (Apple), Sister Taan (Sugar), and Brother Ding all got baptized. It was a wonderful service, the first service in Thonburi in a long time. About 50 people showed up to Church this week because of it! I was overjoyed. The ward is seeing progress. The ward is so lucky to have this family in their midst. The husband is not yet in the picture at Church but I imagine time will pass and progress with occur.

As far as Thonburi, I love this place. I can't quite adequately explain my love for Thonburi and for Thailand. I say it every week though, so everyone thinks I sound repetitive. I can't imagine my life without Thailand. I came here for a reason. Thailand has changed my life in such a profound way. To see the Gospel grow here in Thailand has been an amazing experience. It's like a seed. We can't expect a seed to harvest fruit overnight - that's absurd. However we can expect spurts and gradual constant growth. Thai people are ready for the Gospel, we just have to go out there and help them find themselves.

I love Thonburi because I see thousands of people everyday who are my siblings. Even just the way we talk to one another, we're all related. Big brothers, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, grandparents everywhere. I loved seeing how this week, we had an opportunity to teach people and to help them feel the power of prayer, the love of the Savior. Yesterday we went into a place where people make shoes for 12 hours a day. We sat down waiting for an investigator to be ready to talk to us. A woman who was gluing patterns for shoes told us that her husband recently died. I told her about the plan of salvation and prayers. I have never seen such a fire in someone eyes. She, however, isn't quite ready to learn due to her work schedule. But I know she will never forget when those two really white faraangs who could speak Thai told her that she could and will meet her husband again.

I feel the love of the Savior. I know that the Savior loves us and needs us to help Him. He died for us. He really did. I feel that power so often especially as I walk down the streets trying to find those people who will listen to us. He isn't just a myth or a fable. He lives. I don't know that I can emphasize that enough. And because He lives, we don't have to worry. Life is hard. But we can do it. No matter what comes our way, as long as we have the Savior things will work out. Things never work out the way we anticipated but they always work out the best way. And when we look back we will know why.

I love the Gospel and I love the Savior. Being a missionary isn't easy but it's the right thing to do and it's the most profound experience of my life. Your life will never be the same if you serve a mission. I love Thailand and I love my calling to be here.

May God bless you all. I love you and pray for you daily. We are seeing something miraculous here. Just give us some time.


Elder Jacob Newman