Monday, October 25, 2010

Things Are Going Well in RoiEt Thailand

October 25, 2010

Dearest Family,

Here in RoiEt - the 101, LA or whatever other nickname you want to call it - things are going pretty well. We recently went through a period where we dropped almost all of our investigators so we are doing a lot of finding. Elder Phimsuwan continues to be great. We get along really well and communicate well together. It's funny - my English and my Thai are getting so messed up now. Since we speak in Thai almost all the time - except for times when I teach him English phrases - my brain sometimes goes between English and Thai with no real difference in between the two. It's a bit of a challenge to get things out correctly in either language. Elder Phimsuwan speaks English very well. He just rarely will speak English with me. I love working with him. He's a lot of fun and it's really interesting to get the Thai perspective on everything.

My district includes our companionship and a companionship of Sisters in RoiEt. (It's definitely the most backcountry of the Sisters’ areas.) And, there is a companionship in a nearby place called Mahasarakham. RoiEt and Mahasarakham are pretty similar in climate and make-up from what I understand. We do switch-offs at least once a transfer.

The flooding is big news around here. All day long we hear the radio and the TV on the streets talking about flooding throughout the Isaan and the Bangkok area. There's been a lot of rain here but RoiEt has avoided the worst of it. The water, however, is really high in the rivers. The Church is working on relief efforts in Korat since Korat seems to have been hit pretty hard. The rest of the Isaan is also experiencing some problems.

This week it's the end of the Buddhist lent (Phansaa) and so a lot of people go other places on vacation. So, the streets have been really empty and there haven't been many people to talk to. We are trying to focus on finding new investigators, specifically families and people who will keep commitments. At this time, the investigators that we do have are very good. We have the adorable family of Chamnaan and Jai who have many children, are already Christian and love coming to Church. We taught them this last week and after many months of being investigators set a baptismal date with them. They are planning on being baptized on December 5th 2010. We also got to meet with the amazing Wirayut this week. He's a great investigator. Ironically, he and his wife are both tribal people from Chiang Mai. He can speak Thai and Northern very well but she, Arun, can't speak or understand Thai very much. They are reading the Book of Mormon and are really dedicated to learning more about the gospel. He told us that he can't wait to tell his friends about this in Chiang Mai. He loves the Book of Mormon.

The branch here is much bigger than I am used to. It is full of children and families. We live right across from a member family - Sister Dograg and her husband, Brother Wichian, and their children Omni and Jarom. Omni, the daughter, is about 12 and the son, Jarom, is about 9. They have been members for a long time. The branch is full of members who are long-time converts. The Branch President, however, is a recent convert. He is one of the most humble and soft-spoken, kind men I have ever met. President Sutheb and his wife, Sister Waruni, are amazing assets. They smile, love the members and really want to help the Branch. Lately, there's been an emphasized push on Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching. They are working so hard to help the members catch the vision. Visiting and Home Teaching are the heart of the Church. Without this, our membership will not be strong and will not have the pleasing word of God. Members, especially recent converts, need the help of members to understand doctrine, to build friendships and to continue on the path towards righteousness. That's another lesson I have learned - to not neglect Home or Visiting Teaching.

I love the Thai people. That's the motivation to do missionary work. Elder Day related a great story before he went home. He told of a less active member in Nongkhai. One day the missionaries went to help him gather rice. In the process of gathering rice you have to be careful to not waste a lot of rice since you have to use a sieve of some sort to gather it. He told Elder Day, “Be careful son, every grain has value.” Isn't that so true? No matter who we are, where we are, what we've been in the past or what we are becoming, we all have value in the sight of God. The world tries to tell us otherwise. Many people will tell us that we don't have value. But every grain has value. I know this to be true because I experience it everyday. So often, we merely look upon the outside value of things. We look upon the things that the world can see. But as we ponder upon the reality of human existence, we realize that there is far more to us than what the eye can see or the ear can hear. So often, in the rush of everything, I think we all, especially myself, forget about that. We must remember. We must have patience and love and charity. I love the things I've learned here in Thailand. Sacrifice brings forth blessings untold.

I love you all so very very much. More than words can tell. And I pray for you all daily. Please be happy, healthy and enjoy things!

Love you lots,

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wow! What a change from Thonburi

October 18, 2010

Dearest Family,

Wow! What a change and a half from Thonburi. Here I am in Roi Et (or it's well-known nickname LA), a place that feels about as far as you can get from the Thonburi side of Bangkok.

This past week I fell a little sick. It was probably just a cold or something like that but I am not entirely sure. I was resting in bed on Monday to get on top of it. Elder Iverson came in and said that President Smith was on the phone for me. I thought I wasn't moving for sure, but President Smith told me I would be going district leader with a change of pace.

I started packing. We had our last day at English and our last district meeting. The three moves in Thonburi went by so fast. It seemed like yesterday I was getting off the taxi with Elder Seymour, both of us confused and really tired. The night before moves the bishop had us over to dinner. It was a great Isaan meal that Sister Cherry bought for us. It was delicious and a rather ironic sign of things to come.

When I arrived at moves meeting, I didn't recognize many of the missionaries. Sixty percent of the mission is in their fifth transfer or under. I did see Elder Pimsuwan, formerly Brother Bun, who I knew in Chiang Mai. We smiled and talked. He said, “Hey, my companion's finishing his mission you could come and be the district leader in Roi Et.” I didn't think that was likely. But, President Smith announced it and Elder Pimsuwan and I had a panic attack pretty much. I have wanted a Thai companion and now not only did I get a Thai companion but I got Elder Pimsuwan, who's so amazing!

Here's some background on Elder Pimsuwan. He's actually a third generation member. His grandfather, Brother Somchay, was the second member of the Church in Chiang Mai. Before his life as a member, he had no religion but he was converted and he had two daughters who also were in the Church with him. One of those daughters is Sister Ju, Elder Pimsuwan’s aunt, a translator for the Church and mother of Brother Tua (Now Elder Siriphan) and Sister Ooy, Elder Pimsuwan’s mother. All of these two families are active members in Chiang Mai. Brother Ped, our ward mission leader in Chiang Mai is Elder Pimsuwan's uncle and Elder Pimsuwan’s dad, Brother Supagid, is literally the funniest person on the face of the earth. I love both of these two awesome, amazing families. The ironic thing is that they both are very tight friends with Bishop Arun and Sister Cherry, who worked and lived in Chiang Mai for a time. I was so excited to think that I am working with someone who is such a pioneer in Thailand. These families are the face of the Church in Thailand. They represent the sacrifice of Thai members over the past 40 years.

Speaking of Chiang Mai, here's a little miracle. While I was serving there, a member wanted us to friendship her brother and her sister-in-law to see if they would learn with the Elders. Well, we tried to friendship them - we bought stuff that they sold - delicious egg rolls and spaghetti - and we went to their house for family home evening once. We tried our hardest, but it didn't seem like anything really came of them. Sister Young approached me at moves meeting and said - do you remember Paa (aunt) Noy? She said that you went to her house for spaghetti one time and that you bought a mat from her. It all came back. Sister Young held up her camera. There she was, Paa Noy and her husband, both dressed in white, the newest members of the Chiang Mai branch.

So Roi Et. Wow! Talk about a change. Roi Et feels more like the Isaan than Nongkhai did to me. There are somtum and grilled chicken restaurants everywhere. Roi Et has a lot of really nice houses and Isaan is spoken on the street. I can understand a lot more of the Isaan than I could last time. Everyone, however, will speak to you in Thai. The night we got to Kawngaen, which is where the zone leaders are, the Branch President, Sutheb, and his wife sister Waruni came to pick us up. They are converts of about four years and so incredibly strong. The branch here is simply amazing. It's a HUGE branch. Yesterday there were about 70 people at Church and they all said that there were so few people at Church. Usually about 100 people is fairly typical for this branch. The leadership is experienced, very dedicated and there is a beautiful building.

Roi Et doesn't have a lot of people on the streets, but it has lots of priesthood (at least 15 active Melchizedek priesthood leaders) and a good structure to work with. Right now we are also teaching several families which is awesome! Yesterday one of our investigator families came to Church and they are doing fairly well. They still need to understand the restoration - they are Christians already - but once they grasp that, I feel like they will make excellent members. The branch here has so many long time members and so many memorable characters.

Our house is pretty nice. It's right next to the house of a return missionary, Sister Dograg. She and her husband are long time members of the Church. She feeds the Elders and the Sisters every Sunday night. Last night it was sweet and sour chicken, tom yum gung (a shrimp soup) and naam tog (spicy pork Isaan food.) It was delicious.

Roi Et is a small place. But a place that I feel I will come to love. I love the opportunity to share about our Father in Heaven with these people. So many people just don't know about Him. I feel excited to share the knowledge that I have gained about Him as I have been a missionary. The knowledge that He lives and loves me and that He cares about the one. I know there are people here in Roi Et, and everywhere in the world, who need the knowledge of this Father in Heaven. I am ready to work hard and to see the miracles that God will provide for us here. I can't wait to see what happens.

Love you all lots and pray for you daily!

Elder Jacob Newman

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chapel in Roi Et

Elder Newman has been transferred to Roi Et in northeastern Thailand. His new companion is Elder Pimsuwan.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Elder Newman in Training Session

General Conference in Thonburi

October 11, 2010

Dearest Family,

I am not sure if this is my last week in Thonburi or not. This transfers is a very crazy one. Elder Day's huge group of at least 15 is going to be finishing their missions here pretty soon. It's such a weird thought that not too long ago, I was with Elder Day in Chiang Mai and he was just on his 12th moves. And now here he is finishing his mission. Elder Hunt, an AP is finishing too. There's going to be some pretty major changes in leadership and in trainers. The mission is getting so young now that people have to go senior companion younger and younger. I will be curious to see how this next moves works out.

Thonburi this week is doing alright. We saw four investigators at Church - Sutheb and Plaa along with Bo and Oo. They all attended sessions of Conference. It was pretty amazing that they all came. Sutheb is still having some struggles with keeping commitments - especially reading but he's pressing forward slowly but surely. Bo is doing really well. We taught her a lesson this week where she took notes as we taught. I've never had an investigator do that before. She was intensely taking notes as we reviewed prophets and talked a little bit about General Conference.

General Conference was a good experience. I can understand more than I could last time I watched it in Thai but it just doesn't get the same meaning across really. The translations sometimes are hard because the speakers will vary from their intended course. Also ten hours of listening to really high Thai language with crazy vocabulary is a bit tiring. But the speakers were really good. I loved Elder Uchtdorf's talk about the pace of modern life and Elder Eyring's talk. Conference is a really nice time to be with the members, too. Granted, the turn out usually isn't that fantastic but this year we had quite a few investigators who showed up.

I don't know how to describe my intense love for Thonburi. I have never had an area quite like it. The ward is doing better since we've been here. I feel like somehow we give them more hope for a future where Thailand can have that temple. I love missionary work, even if it is a lot of rejection and even if it's particularly difficult sometimes. There are miracles and God doesn't want us to forget that.

In reality, why does God allow us to have challenges? How can an infinite, all-loving God allow us as humans to suffer? The answer is simple: love. God loves us more than we can imagine. God lets us experience trials because He loves us and desires to have an intimate role in our lives. God loves us so much that He sent His Son to feel all that. Have we ever thought of trials as a form of love? Instead of asking why, which we are all so prone to do, we must ask how. We must ask how we can press forward with faith until we see the light. I know that

Thonburi has been a challenge in many ways - from being sick my first week and fainting in an elevator and hours of inviting and lots of rejection. But would I trade Thonburi for anything? Never. Thonburi is too deserving. The ward is too deserving of any kind of help that it can get. Thonburi has been stressful, yes, but I hope I don't move this moves because I want to spend as much time as I can helping this place to develop and grow. I will do all it takes to help this ward because it's not just their ward, it's my ward. Granted, I have my home ward in Utah, but Thonburi has become my ward in so many ways. I look around and see them as my siblings. And then I think about leaving them, and I almost can't stand the thought. Thonburi will always have a special place in my heart. And one day when I come back here, I will shout for joy that I had a chance to come back and see all these wonderful members.

As part of the Thailand Bangkok mission we have a motto. "Faith is the power. Obedience is the price. Love is the motivation. Preach My Gospel is the key. Christ is the reason." I have never felt this theme so strongly until Thonburi. The sacrifice of a mission is a pleasure for all those who decide to sacrifice. The power of sacrifice is indescribable. This power has the ability to change the world. Thonburi has changed my life forever. I will never forget the sacrifice, the miracle of Thonburi. Even if I don't move, I must express these feelings.

All is well. I love you all so much and pray for you daily.

With Love,

Elder Jacob Newman

Friday, October 8, 2010

Greetings From a Rainy, Wet Southeastern Asia

October 4, 2010

Dearest Family,

Greetings from a rainy, wet and humid South Eastern Asia Monday! It seems so crazy that another six months has passed - another conference is upon us. It seems like yesterday I was watching Conference in English in Chiang Mai. But that was actually six months ago. How fast time seems to fly while you are here in Thailand. My time in Thonburi has gone by so quickly. I cannot believe that transfers will soon be upon us (they started calling them transfers - weird right?) and that my time in Thonburi might be at an end. I don't think it's quite over yet though. I think I will be here for this last moves. I feel there's still some things left to do and some things that I still need to resolve.

Thonburi is a place that I will never forget. I don't know what to say about it exactly. Yesterday Sister Cherry gave me friendship book entry that almost made me cry. She started it off and said the words that I wanted to hear. She said first of all "We have to thank Heavenly Father that you were sent here to Thonburi. You helped our ward so much." She told me many other things that were just the answers that I needed. I don't know how she knew what I needed to hear from her family but she knew exactly what I wanted to think of my time in Thonburi as. I felt so touched to think that our Father in Heaven knew exactly why I needed to be here.

I might be the in the last set of second Elders that will be here in Thonburi until they decide to try it again in the future, but I feel grateful for this opportunity to have served here. This side of Bangkok isn't visited terribly often unless people are going to go to Wad Arun, but if I ever come back to Thailand, this will be my first stop for sure. The strong feelings that we associate with the places we love the most never leave us.

Elder Iverson told me yesterday that I am stuck on the members. And it's true. I love the members here so much. I feel such a strong connection - it's so ironic how our lives are so guided like that. The bishop's family is great friends with Brother Ped's and Sister Ju's family in Chiang Mai and know all the members in Chiang Mai since they lived there. And it's so amazing to think that I had the chance to come here in the middle of Bangkok to find some of the lost sheep.

You asked about a typical Sacrament Meeting in Thonburi. There is the teacher, deacon, bishopric member, chorister and relief society first counselor in the same family who show up every day - Brother Johnny and Sister Taeng and their family. Then there's the bishop's family - Cherry, Bishop, Kiwi, Navy, Ivy - so adorable, seriously. And then there's the other regular members - Sister Pranom who cleans the chapels in Bangkok with her two young adult sons, Sister Ganjana and her daughter Nina, Sister Fon and Brother Poniwad - a long, long time member - Brother Long, I could name them all. Usually there are about two speakers or three sometimes. The bishop takes a lot of time to speak. He's CES and a great speaker. I love him! Sacrament meeting is simple.

Our chapel is on Jaran 22, right behind it is a wad and it's also next to a coffin making factory. It's deep in a soy that's a typical Thonburi soy.

Interpreting for the deaf lady is extremely difficult and very tiring but it's been a good experience and it's improved my comprehension a lot. She's a very nice Sister.

Brother Sutheb keeps having conflicts with Church but he's doing better, he's starting to live some commandments that have been a struggle for him in the past. I can see the change within him as we have taught him over the past couple of months. He will only continue to progress as he comes to Church and expresses his faith. I have seen him give up a lot things and express a true desire to repent. He will continue to progress as he strives to exercise faith in the Savior.

We met with a referral from a member named Wan. She will take some time to understand what we are teaching but she will gradually understand more and more as we emphasize the teachings that will help her to come to know her Heavenly Father.

And we also had a wonderful experience with Bo, a referral from a new member in Stop's ward. She is living here in Thonburi and was Christian in the past but expressed that she hadn't been too church-going until she graduated. Then she started going to church and went many places but none of them felt right exactly. So she came to our church and she feels great about it. We taught her a first lesson about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. She seems ready to accept the Gospel.

Besides that we walked a lot. And by a lot, I mean a ton. We contacted a lot and found some people who have potential. Elder Panom and I did switch offs this week which was bittersweet almost. It's our last time switching off since he will be moving. I have grown to love Elder Panom and his wonderful influence. He has such an amazing conversion story that I almost can't believe it. I feel as if his influence will be invaluable for the Church in Thailand in the future. Lots of contacting - that's Thonburi. City contacting since the soys have lots of people but it's very unclear where everyone lives.

I know that God loves us. Even when we feel like maybe no one knows or cares, there's always someone who cares. God has an infinite role in our lives. He sent me to Thonburi perhaps to learn some lessons or perhaps to develop patience. Or perhaps to become more like our Savior. No matter what the purpose - to help the deaf lady perhaps - I know I came here for a reason. God lives. Jesus is the Christ. The Gospel has power and we are all a part of it. Remember that God loves us all!


Elder Jacob Newman