Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas in Thailand

December 27, 2010

Hello Everyone!

Talk about an interesting Christmas here in Thailand. It definitely didn't feel like Christmas at all except for the fact there was a party at the Church. We ended up at the Church a lot of the day because Khaaw Glawng was baptized yesterday! I had to type the program in Thai which took me forever.

The Christmas program really focused on the birth of Jesus Christ. The nativity that the branch did was very good. One of our investigators, a 15 year old named Party, was an angel in it.

I thought about how little even Thai members know about Christ's ministry and life and especially his birth as they presented the Nativity. Sister Waruni talked about it a bit in her talk on Sunday. She said she didn't know much of anything about Christmas but this year she learned so much and felt an increased sense of gratitude.

In Thailand at Christmas there is little or no sign of Jesus Christ at all. The only thing you will see is signs that say "Merry X-mas" or something like that. Christmas is a normal day in Thailand. People still go to work, still go about their normal days.

We also went around singing carols to members. We visited a lot of members who help us here in Roi Et. It was really fun to go and have those special memories with people like Sister Jan, Brother Siriwit, Brother Loesaan, Sister Jampii, and many other wonderful members in Roi Et.

Khaaw Glawng was interviewed on Thursday for baptism. He’s been ready for a long time but we were trying to get his dad, Chaang, in the picture. Chaang is an interesting case. In the past: 1) He never read the scriptures on his own and 2) He never prayed in his own free time. He told us yesterday, “I was so anti” but that his heart has changed a lot. The first day I met Chaang, I knew he was being forced to learn by Sister A. But then something really amazing happened. We had a lesson where Elder Thrap and I told him he had to keep commitments in order to know the things that we were telling him were true. He started to keep commitments. And he's never been the same since. Chaang had been a very indifferent investigator. As we have been teaching him for this time around, he smiles, he asks questions, he's involved in the lesson, he's marking the scriptures in his free time and he's praying with his family.

I have learned that we must have faith that our investigators can change. If Heavenly Father can change Chaang, he can change any heart. Their family is happier, there's more peace in their home. Yesterday Chaang told us that he wants to go to the temple to get married and that he wants to be baptized. He loved Khaaw Glawng's service. He came to the priesthood hour for the first time ever. Everyone was shocked. We have to have faith that the Gospel can change people. We have to have faith in the converting and transforming power of the Gospel. Brother Chaang will be ready for his date as he continues to do the things that will open his heart. He's a miracle in action.

Party, one of our younger investigators, came to the baptism, which he loved. The last time we taught him, he told us that he wanted to be ordained to the priesthood and that he wanted to be an "Elder". He also said he wanted to be baptized. We are going to keep working with him. He's a champ at keeping commitments and he's really changed a lot since he started learning the Gospel. He's a great young man.

Manob is still struggling a bit with his food not selling well. He sells very close to Sister Dawgrag and they are friends. Manob was a referral from her. He hasn't come to Church yet because of his financial situation. He understands well but needs help coming to Church.

Nxng came to Church for all three hours this week! That was a really great step for him. I feel that he will be ready for baptism this January. He's doing really well and is progressing quite a bit more than we anticipated. He has developed some good intentions as he has learned the Gospel more and more and he will make a good member of the Church.

Aa is still struggling to come to Church. His wife had the special experience of seeing her father in a dream as she prayed every night. She brought this up as we taught them last week. I feel like they are such an adorable family - Aa, Naang, Nam Khaang (Dew as in dew on the grass) - and they just need to understand how coming to Church will help them and they will come here fairly soon.

We met another new investigator named Phaybuun on a 10 minute lesson. We went back to see him and he had kept commitments and loved it. It was amazing, he understood so well. We will be going back to see him for a third time tonight. It was such a short lesson at first but enough that he was very interested.

Pawng came to Church! This is his third time as an investigator and the second time he's investigated with his wife. He showed up at Church even though we had to cancel our appointment with him on Saturday night.

I know that the Lord loves these people here in Thailand. As I get closer to getting home, I don't really want to think about it because it just makes me too sad. I love Thailand too much. I am addicted to Thailand and I love these people and the opportunity to teach the Gospel so much. I will never forget what I have learned here as I have seen the power of the atonement in my life and in the lives of others.

I love you all so dearly and pray for you all daily!


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, December 20, 2010

One of the Best Weeks of my Entire Mission!

December 20, 2010

Dearest Family,

This was one of the best weeks of my entire mission. We saw so many amazing things happen that we never expected and found so many people just out of the middle of nowhere and learned so much.

The standard for missionaries is to aim to teach 20 lessons per week. We have not gotten more than about 10. This week we got 24 lessons! It was incredible because first of all, it didn't make any sense how we did it besides following the simple but wise advice of the zone leaders and it also didn't make sense because we found a lot of great people to teach, too.

The Zone Leaders extended a challenge. They said that we could get into someone's house to teach a lesson everyday. We simply have to pray before hand, ask God for help and then go out and teach 10 minute lessons which are basically like extended invites where we get them to feel the spirit. We did this a BUNCH of times. All we did is say: “Hello! We are missionaries who teach about Jesus Christ. Can we sit down and talk for about 10 minutes?”

Thai people almost always accept an invitation to sit down. Granted, they don't open their heart every time but they are given the opportunity to feel the Spirit through that prayer. We met so many people to teach, people who felt the power of prayer. We found one investigator who said he loved prayer because it made him feel peace that he had never felt before. We found that as we teach investigators that prayer is the method by which they can receive revelation and ask God questions, they come to understand the true nature of this gift from Heavenly Father. They feel the power of receiving answers and they feel the changing power of the atonement in their lives.

That brings us to Brother Chaang. We went to see him and he hadn't prayed but he had read daily. We told him he had to pray to understand the scriptures and recommitted him to pray. And then we went back yesterday. Brother Chaang is changing every time we go see him. He talks to us and is so friendly to us. He's smiling more and this last time he said to us. "Elders, I have never read the scriptures regularly before but as I have started reading them daily I have felt the power of them - the power of them to change me. But I can't quite explain it." Sister A laughingly said to him "Dad (when they are together as a family they refer to each other as Dad and Mom), it's called a testimony!" We all laughed and really felt Chaang's growing testimony. He will be ready to be baptized by this next month as we continue to pray and love him.

I love Brother Chaang probably more than I ever expected was possible. I want him to progress so badly because one day, I want to see them sealed in the temple as an eternal family - Sister A's dream fulfilled. The pictures of the temple all over their walls will be symbols of their commitment to God and the covenants they made in the temple. One day, they will go to the temple together and be sealed for time and all eternity.

Elder Thrap found a statement in a notebook here in the house from training in March 2009. It said "A missionary is someone who leaves his family for a short time so someone else can spend eternity with their own family.” There are days where it's hot, we are tired and we aren't entirely into everything but I know that as we remember why we came to Thailand we will have a correct perspective and the correct motives.

There's TOO much to tell from this week: Manob - an investigator who understood everything we taught. A lesson on being true saints and getting rid of the natural man and why we must go to Church. Teaching the boy who comes to Church every week. Really forgetting ourselves and going to work.

I know that if we aren’t humble, we cannot do anything. We must acknowledge the Lord's hand in our lives. We must learn to obey the Lord's will for our lives even if we don't understand. I learned that this week. As we trust in God and do what the Zone Leaders suggest, we will be blessed. It's like painting the blood on our doorsteps. Do it willingly and God will bless you. I love the Lord and I love Thailand.

I love you all dearly and pray for you all daily. Pray for all to be well and pray for us to recognize the hand of God in our lives.


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Church in RoiEt Has Many Families and Couples

December 13, 2010

Dearest Family,

In the last two weeks we have taught more lessons than I have taught in a long time. It's crazy. Elder Thrap is a good influence. He has a hardworking, dedicated, organized personality and I have been working to emulate that more. His Thai is getting really good, he's becoming braver and less scared of talking to people and he's always willing to try new things. It's the joy of having a greenie.

We’re teaching a referral from President Sutheb, Ah, who is doing really well. We’re working to get his wife involved. He noticed in President Sutheb's life an increase of peace, direction and family happiness. Sutheb and Waruni are wonderful examples of members of the Church. They understand the doctrine, the way the Church should work and have a desire to help the Church grow in Thailand. The Sisters are teaching his older sister. It's a family affair. President Sutheb was referred by his older brother and his older brother's family is still active, even though his brother has since passed away.

The Church here in RoiEt has so many families and couples. That sets RoiEt apart from my other areas besides Chiang Mai – the number of full member families. I love to see Sister A's family coming to church together, even though Chaang isn't a member yet. Little Khaaw Glong is so adorable. He speaks really quietly and is always so polite. He's a tiny little guy, about nine years old and he looks so handsome with his shirt and tie. Then there's his older Brother Faang who passes the sacrament and Sister A and Brother Chaang.

Chaang is a bit stubborn. Yesterday as we taught him I thought about the things that I have seen with him. I compared his desire to get an answer from God and to follow God with him buying a can of coke. Chaang can't expect God to give him a 10 baht coke when he's only given God about two baht worth of effort. I asked Chaang how much he thinks he had given God and he admitted about two baht. We talked about repentance with him. We asked him if he is willing to begin to repent. He said that he didn't understand. The word repentance in Thai means "to return (to) heart". Chaang began to ask questions. How do I repent? What will it do for me?

Repentance is one of the greatest blessings that God gives to His children. We all make mistakes and these mistakes stop us from moving forward. The mistakes of the past leave us feeling like we can't move forward. But as we learn the Gospel and the steps of repentance, we understand that when we sin, we simply forget who we are. We forget we are children of God and that we don't always need to make the same mistakes over and over again. God wants us to see that. And I want Brother Chaang to see that so clearly. The reason he's been an investigator forever is because he hasn’t known how to find faith in Christ. He hasn’t known why he needed or wanted to have faith in Christ.

As we repent, we develop faith in Jesus Christ. Repentance brings the power of godliness into our lives. We need to think of this as we go to Church to renew our covenants with God. The word for covenant in Thai has an interesting connotation. The first part of the word is a common root in Thai that is often used to show connection between two parties (relationship, for example) the word covenant in Thai literally means to bind and promise. When we make a covenant with God, we are bound to Him. Does it mean we are always going to be perfect? No! If we were there would be no need for covenants and there would be no progression. Our covenants are the means by which we grow closer to God and enjoy the power of godliness in our lives. As we make covenants with God, whether at the sacrament table, or in the temple, we are in essence, inviting the power of godliness to come into our lives and to be with us always. We are humans, so we will make mistakes, but the covenants that we make with God call us to a higher plane of existence and discipleship.

As far as for Chaang, he's not quite ready to make this covenant with God. We are going to have to push his baptism back a bit, but I know that he will receive that answer. He must give God the full 10 baht. Once he does, he will know that God lives and loves him.

Wirayud is struggling a bit because of work. He hasn't been to Church regularly lately and he went to Chiang Rai this weekend. He hasn't been reading the scriptures regularly and he's been asking us why his life seems more difficult now. I don't think he quite understands why we read the scriptures.

Lessons learned this week:

1. Patience - God needs us to be humble for Him to change our lives. We must not have pride and instead learn to accept his timing. It will all work out. I know that we must have patience if we want happiness.
2. Repentance - We must repent daily and find ways that we can be better.
3. Love - Charity. We must see people as they are and we must learn to love those we serve.

I love the opportunity to be training again. I love this time here in RoiEt. I feel extremely happy and very grateful for the blessings that God has given me. I am so grateful for the blessings of the Gospel and the power of God in our lives.

I love you all dearly and know that God loves you too. Please take care of yourselves and I pray for you all daily.


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, December 6, 2010

Greetings from RoiEt

December 6. 2010

Dear Family,

Greetings from another week in RoiEt - the first full week here with my wonderful son, Elder Thrap! He can speak Thai very clearly. He teaches well, asks excellent questions and inspires thought in our investigators’ hearts. He's knowledgeable of the scriptures and has a great desire to be here.

You asked me if I could understand everything when people speak Isaan. That's an ironic question. Yesterday it was apparently "Let's all speak to Elder Newman in Isaan and see how much he understands day." Unfortunately I can pick up the gist of it and a lot of times I understand all of it but I can’t hold a deep conversation in it. Seriously, EVERYONE was speaking to me in Isaan at Church.

Yesterday was Thai Father's day. It's the King's birthday. As I thought about that, I reflected on all the things that my Dad has done for us. Thank you for your sacrifice and your support of all of us. Thanks for making all of us feel loved and special. I love you lots. Happy Thai Fathers’ Day! I miss you.

Then I thought about our Heavenly Father. Thailand doesn't know Heavenly Father. They don't understand that we have a Father in Heaven who is the creator of our Spirits. I love this Father so much. I love the fact that he is always so willing to help me even when I make about a million mistakes a day. Heavenly Father's design for his children is one of happiness. He's a perfect Father. And to explain about the love of this parent to the Thai people is an amazing thing.

I remember one day in Thonburi we had had a difficult week. I looked at the map of Bangkok on our wall. I turned to Elder Iverson and asked, “Do you see this map? How many people on here do you think love God?" As a missionary we come to feel like I imagine God might feel. Everyday we wake up and see millions of people that we love but who don't love us or don't pay attention to us. That is love. Love is sacrifice. It suffereth long. Love will never fail. This love has the power to change our investigators.

This week we taught Brother Chaang (Elephant) and he's a bit stubborn. He's been an investigator for three years. He told us he doesn't know Jesus Christ. I ask him if he had ever read the Book of Mormon regularly. He said no. I told him, he must read the evidence of Christ. Through Christ we are spiritually born and we find the peace and joy that we seek in this life. For the first time in Chaang's history of an investigator who has been so indifferent, he said the words dedicated. In Thai this word is to set up your heart. Elder Thrap and I are praying so hard that he will continue to open his heart and let in our Father in Heaven, our Savior and the transforming power of the Gospel. We are all working to become like Him and to transform our lives. God loves us all so much. Even though we make many mistakes and aren't perfect.

I love Chaang and his family. I want this family to be prepared to be sealed in the temple and to have the peace that I know the Gospel will bring into their lives. I know that this is possible as we pray, teach by the Spirit and help Brother Chaang to come closer to the Savior.

Wirayud and his wife, Arum, will be legally married by May. I am not sure what to do with them in the meantime... They came to Church for the first week in two weeks. We may just teach them once a week until they can get baptized.

We also saw former investigators named Bawng and Num who are both struggling. They don't have peace. Peace comes from keeping the commandments. It's just as simple as that. That doesn't mean that our lives will always be serene and still but we will know what to do because as we keep the commandments we know who we really are.

Don't ever let anyone else define you. Let Him define you. You are a child of God with endless potential and with the power to become like Him. These people here in RoiEt are all his children. Imagine the power that has. The supreme creator of universes, the Lord of all creation has his eye upon all of us. He helps me everyday as I strive to overcome temptation and sorrow as we journey in this life.

I love the Lord and I love Thailand. I know that I was called here for a reason. I am so grateful for all that God has given me. Particularly my family here in Thailand - for all the fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers that I meet every day. And especially my family in America - our eternal family. I love you all so much. This Christmas time I think of how the Savior's birth and sacrifice makes eternal families a reality. I know that family can be together forever. That's such an amazing thought. And it's possible because of Jesus Christ.

I love you all and pray for you daily,

With Love,

Elder Jacob Newman