October 18, 2010
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