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