Monday, January 31, 2011

This Was a Crazy Week!

January 31, 2011

This week was crazy. We had major trainings in Roi Et during the middle of the week. Some other things that came up in the week were a last minute baptism program that had several mistakes, a baptism, Elder Thrap on exchanges, some crazy changes with investigators and a stressful time at Church.

Anyway, so I like to use the word stress a lot. Stress comes from hurry I guess. I feel in a hurry to make the last bit of my time in Thailand the best time possible. I only get to do this once and who knows when I'll be back in Thailand. Leaving Thailand will be very hard.

Brother Wirayud is doing well. This weekend he went to Chiang Mai for an election that's super important. He's in a different district from the city of Chiang Mai but in the same province. It’s a place called Chiang Daaw. He is a great guy and wants his father to also join the Church. His mother who recently died was Christian in Chiang Daaw but his father is still Buddhist. He, like most Thai tribal people of that generation, cannot read Thai but can speak Thai somewhat.

So this week! Nxng was baptized. He interviewed with Elder Ritchie on Friday night and then passed and we planned his baptism on Saturday. (Brother Ball showed up at Church too. He's Nxng's friend from Amway.) Anyway, he did a great job and he has a good testimony. He was baptized along with the granddaughter of a member whose parents are both members. Her grandma and grandpa are temple endowed and sealed. Nxng has a really interesting experience. He's been an investigator on and off for a long, long time. But he's doing really well and he's keeping the commandments. He has a desire to follow Christ and to be a good example. We are now going to be trying to work with his family to open their hearts more. They live in a neighborhood that is very frequently proselytized

Church was a stressful yesterday. Let's just say a sacrament meeting with talks about the Spirit World, the gathering of Israel and signs of the second coming might be just a little intense. Some of our investigators are struggling to come to Church - Manob was too cold/didn't wake up on time - we aren't sure if that's what really happened or if it's something else. Phaybuun had a bit of an emergency with a close relative who's arm started swelling after taking the cast off. And then Art, a new investigator from English class didn't show up either. But Chaysid and Nxng both showed up. So this week we are going to be working on helping our investigators get to Church.

Elder Thrap went on exchanges since we had the MTC new curriculum trainings in Roi Et. He was with Elder Heftel and Elder Grover.It sounds like they had some funny experiences on their exchanges. (I, on the other hand, was in trainings all week about the MTC new curriculum.) They had a great time and taught a lot of lessons. They also taught Brother Chaang who continues to do well, attending all three hours and enjoying Church even if he looks bored sometimes. Most of the time he has to come straight from work but he wears a white shirt and a tie every week. Brother Chaang is a champ. He's a miracle and he will do great things for the Church in Roi Et. Sister A is so active now with him, they are such a wonderful family with Khaaw Glawng and Khaaw Faang. Khaaw Glawng wears his cute little tie. Khaaw Faang passes the sacrament. It's such a great picture of an upper-middle class Thai Mormon family.

All is going well. That doesn't mean that it's perfect but when you have an investigator who identifies himself to Heavenly Father, when you meet people who are interested or when you simply try your best, that's the best feeling of them all. I love this opportunity to be a missionary. A mission isn't the easiest thing you will do; you will face challenges that you never thought you would. The path will have pot holes and dips. But we press on, with steadfast faith in Christ. And so we press forward.

I pray for you all daily. Love you lots,

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, January 24, 2011

I Love the Mission!

January 24, 2011

I love the mission. Oh wow, if I could really describe how blessed I feel to come to Roi Et, I don't know if I can explain it in words. Roi Et hasn't been my easiest but it's been the most worthwhile area. I know that the Lord is watching out for me and that He's helping.

Elder Thrap and I have seen so many miraculous things. From Brother Chaang (He told us he would do his home teaching, he comes for all three hours every week in a white shirt and tie, and greeted us when we went to visited him, actually excited to see us.) - to Manob (Who we started calling Brother and who told us he would abandon everything to come to know God.) - to Phaybuun (Who tells us that he was tired of being in the dark and now is in the light because of us.) I can't believe that miracles of Roi Et.

Here in Roi Et when I finally realized that our attitude is the single most important aspect in anything we do, I saw how miracles started to happen. We are teaching double digit lessons every week, we are finding people, seeing baptisms (Wirayud and Alum - turns out it's an l not an r - welcome to Thailand!) and we are also seeing people change their lives. People give up so much for the Gospel. I am so grateful for the opportunity to come to Roi Et and meet such wonderful people. I love the Lord and I love the work here in Roi Et.

Missionary work is a team effort. All those companionships who came to teach Brother Chaang were preparing him. For some reason, however, during the time that our companionship taught we saw Him bring about a mighty change of heart in him. Brother Chaang is so different. The last time we taught him before his baptism, I started to get emotional because for the first time in my mission, I felt like I had seen such a drastic change in someone that I had taught. I felt as if in some small way I had helped Sister A's family. She wanted him to be baptized so badly. She wants the blessings of the temple in her home. One day they will have them. One day Brother Chaang and Sister A, Khaaw Glawng and Khaaw Faang will go to the temple together and be sealed as an eternal family. They are such a cute family. And he's such a great dad. The Gospel has changed their family and it will continue to change their family when they make a trip to the temple.

So this week Wirayud and Alum got baptized. Wirayud is great! The branch loves him and his wife. And so that was a great moment. This next week we should have one more baptism with Brother Nxng- who's doing much better and is keeping commitments very well. He shared his testimony with Elder Thrap while I went to do exchanges in Sarakham (Mahasarkham) and I met sister Nog who knows Sister Cherry and Bishop Arun in Thonburi.

I have gained such a testimony of His Gospel while I have been here. Don't ever forget that repentance isn't something that's not convenient but is something that will bring us true joy and happiness. Don't let Satan try to tell you that you haven't repented when you have and also remember that Satan’s goal is make us miserable. I have seen this in the lives of too many people. We all have a tendency to forget about the atonement and try to hack it on our own. God wants us, with all His heart, for us to rely on Him. Please rely on Him and remember that His promises are sure. He doesn't lie and he doesn't deviate from the current course that he is taking. I love His Gospel. I am not perfect but the Savior is always there to help me.

Also always remember to VLOGROP everything you watch, read, listen to or do. We must remember that we can't just be the natural man but we must become true Saints through the atonement of Christ.

Love you all - Remember He lives.

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, January 17, 2011

Brother Chaang and His Family with Elder Newman and Elder Thrap

Brother Chaang and Elder Newman at Baptism

This Week Was Amazing!

January 17, 2011

Dearest Family,

Here's some funny news to start off today. Since coming to Roi Et, I have had an elephant randomly try to pick me up, a cow lick me, and several roosters attack me. Animals and I don't get along apparently? There was a man taking care of cattle yesterday and his cattle started to lick my arm. It was very random. We proceeded to teach him. Meaning the man. Not the cattle.

Anyway, this week was.... amazing. Okay, so there might have been just a little crying at Brother Chaang's baptism. It was a great time. I really loved it and that's the story that I want to talk about this week. First of all, Chaang's interview was super short. The Zone Leaders came from Khawn Gaen and they interviewed both him and Wirayud and Arum (they were legally married and are going to be baptized this week). Elder Harris, from my group interviewed Brother Chaang. He said Brother Chaang respected me a lot and that he had a great testimony. Brother Chaang is the quiet type but lately there's been more of a smile in his life and his personality has changed completely. After the interview I said "All right Chaang, who's going to baptize you?" And he said - You are Elder Newman. I was shocked and slightly taken aback.

Chaang doesn't show much emotion. So we prepared the baptism, making a really nice program with a beautiful picture of the Salt Lake Temple on the front. Sister A said something that was very touching. She said she thought last year she would just go to the temple by herself but she prayed about it and got an answer that she should just keep saving money so all four of them could go together. That was when Brother Chaang wasn't showing any interest. He would listen to the Elders out of his concern/love for Sister A but he had no testimony really. He didn't get answers to his prayers. Chaang is a very honest man. If he doesn't believe, he will tell you. He doesn't lie. He didn't do this because of peer pressure. It wasn't until Elder Thrap and I started teaching him this time around that within the course of 6 weeks, he underwent a massive transformation. Reading the scriptures daily, praying daily, praying as a family. It was incredible. And I thought about it - how long has Sister A waited for this? Three years. That's a long time to feel like God doesn't answer your prayers.

I feel so honored and touched that Elder Thrap and I had a small part in the culminating process of Brother Chaang's conversion. He told his family and his friends that he's going to be Christian. He even told his really strict parents. He's so brave. And he loves the gospel, even if he falls asleep in Church sometimes - he usually comes straight from working the night shift. This week his son, Khaaw Glawng, had an accident that put him in the hospital on Sunday but he was out in time for the baptism and it wasn't anything too serious. He fell while running with friends and had some symptoms after. So Brother Chaang went to sacrament but Sister A didn't go because she was with Khaaw Glawng. But they made it back in time for the baptism.

So I was nervous to baptize him. I was shaking. The service began. It was so quiet. It was the quietest service I have ever been in. You could literally hear a pin drop. It was so sacred. Sister A gave a great talk and cried a little bit. And we sang “This Is the Christ” in Thai. Then there was the moment. The water was cold but Brother Chaang was so excited. He went under the water and came up smiling, as broad as ever. Then we got changed and he was so excited.

Then came the most sweet testimony. Brother Chaang said something to the effect of, "I have been an investigator for three years but I feel as if there is something that has caused me to come into the Church. I know Jesus Christ is the Savior. I will be a strong member and I will lead my family to be an eternal family." And I thought about it. Even if I had come to Thailand just for Brother Chaang I would take it all - all the rejection of Thonburi, all the heat of, well, every area and everything in between. It was awesome. I know that this is why I came to Roi Et. I can't believe what a blessing this is in my life.

Never forget the power of the Gospel. It changes our families. And it changes our lives. Don't put it off as merely good teachings or just chance, the atonement of Jesus Christ has power. It's about him - it's about Brother Chaang, it's about all these people who need this hope in their lives. And even while we strive through grief and pain because the Gospel doesn't make life easy all the time, we know that we have a goal to be together as a family forever. One day, I hope I can meet Brother Chaang and Sister A in the temple as an eternal family and have the privilege of seeing them again. It's just such a miracle.

I love this work even if it's stressful and emotionally tiring sometimes. Brother Chaang just makes it all worth it. Pray for him to always be strong to the end. He's a champ! I love you all so much and I pray for you daily. Busy as ever. Roi Et continues to be awesome. Too much news to put in today!


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, January 10, 2011

RoiEt Is a Favorite Place for so Many Reasons

January 10 2011

Dearest Family,

Oh wow. What a week. It's a little crazy how fast time flies by. I am doing really well! This area has been the best as far as investigators. It has been so much fun. RoiEt is a favorite place for so many reasons. Who would ever think that a small, podunk, Isaan town could yield investigators like this? Apparently God does and did. I have to say RoiEt is the first place where I feel like I have seen the most critical point in someone's conversion, Brother Chaang’s. Brother Chaang, in very surprising news will be getting baptized this week. Brother Chaang, like President Sutheb told us, changed in the flip of a hand.

Oh, Brother Chaang! This last lesson he asked amazing, fantastic questions. He smiles more than I have ever seen him smile. He repents daily. He reads the scriptures everyday. It's so... unbelievable. I don't know if words can adequately describe how much he has changed. Their life as a family is so different now too. There's more honesty, happiness, unity in their family. Sister A's long time goal of going to the temple is going to become a reality.

Brother Chaang is ready to be baptized before his date. It all came down to getting Khaaw Glawng baptized first. This will complete their family. It's been quite an amazing process. The first time I met Brother Chaang it was so different. He sat in his chair, learned the lessons because he felt forced to. Then yesterday it came full circle almost. Brother Chaang comes out with his Book of Mormon with his bookmark and his pen that he uses to mark up the scriptures. He came to church dressed up in a shirt and tie rather than a t-shirt and jeans. He stayed for all three hours for the first time ever and he liked what he learned in Church. I don't know how this is possible. We talked with President Sutheb who was equally shocked. I think everyone is shocked because they doubted he would/could ever change. We can't forget that people can and will change. We have to have faith in the changing power of the atonement.

Did I mention that I was excited for Brother Chaang. I have probably only said that about 1,000,000 times in the past two days. The thing that changed Brother Chaang was reading the scriptures. Anyone who reads the scriptures cannot deny their power. The scriptures have power to change us from natural men into true saints. The word "Saint" in Thai means a holy person with a suffix that implies authority or power. The atonement of Jesus Christ is so clearly taught in the scriptures. These doctrines will change us into people who have power to overcome the temptations of the devil and power to do the things that are right. I know that Christ has the power to change us. We aren't perfect and we will never be perfect until Christ will make us so. But we must realize that our past mistakes must not block us for our happiness at the present time. The Lord desires us to be happy. We can do all things that the Lord wants us to do as we trust in him.

Nxng is still struggling a bit. We had a way intense lesson about repentance and keeping the Sabbath day holy. At one point, Nxng related that keeping the Sabbath day holy is "something in our hearts" - meaning that if we don't go but we have intentions to go it's the same. Unfortunately, this attitude is not exactly the way things work. We talked about how he must repent with all his heart.

Manob sacrificed to come to Church. We promised a miracle. He was down to 1000 baht. We aren't sure how it worked out yet. We are going to have to see what happened with him. Manob is going to have to move out of his place because the rent is too expensive. He's starting to see that keeping the commandments is the best choice.

Phaybuun didn't come to Church. We met Phaybuun off of a 10 minute lesson and he's way good, but we are going to continue to work with him to get him to Church. He literally gave up drinking within one day. We went to teach him once and he was drunk. We committed him to live the word of wisdom and he said: Elder, before you go can we pray together? I need help with this. How we must remember to pray! We can't deny the fact that prayer has power. When we do, we deny the power of God.

Party continues to be awesome. He reads a chapter of scripture a day. What 15 year old does that? He also is keeping the commandments and going to Church every week. He wants to be a missionary and have the priesthood. So awesome.

Aa and his family haven't been free lately, I am not sure what's going on with them. And Pong and Num we ended up dropping. It was a bit of an interesting drop lesson. Elder Thrap asked one inspired question and boom! The concerns, problems and reasons why he needs some time to think about these things came out. What he came down to is that he believes in Heavenly Father but he's not ready to follow him or to keep the commandments. He's just not quite ready.

This week we had a harder time finding new investigators so we don't have too much to report on that front. Getting into Thai people's houses is so fun though! Oh wait! There was the man we taught (Saamaad) who we taught but couldn't meet again because of his crazy schedule. But he called us and thanked us for teaching him how to pray. So random. And so we are going to see what we can work out with him.

I love you all so much. Sometimes I feel so distant from all of you. It's not that I don't miss you or think of you often, I just feel so distant sometimes. But I think of you and love you all so very much. May the Lord bless you all. Pray that all will be well here in RoiEt. I pray for you all daily.

Love you lots,

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome to 2554 (2011)

January 3, 2011

Dearest Family,

Welcome to 2554! Or do I mean 2011? It's a bit confusing here. Everything that's Thai says 2554, anything that's got a dash of faraang in it says 2011. It's crazy to think how fast life passes by us. It's like our lives are a dream and then we look back and we wonder what happened.

So this week was a bit crazy. This next week will be even crazier. It's time for us to head to Bangkok. (Yes, it's that time again) Although the chances are very slim that I am moving. I will be in Roi Et for another six weeks and then I will move to my final area. Gulp. That's a sad thought. I have come to love Roi Et so much because I have seen how my entire mission I have been brought to this point for a reason.

So, this week. Well, let's talk about some of the best experiences so far. First of all, Brother Chaang. Oh man, he's so awesome, I can't even believe it. If you were to tell any of the companionships who taught him in the past that he was this good, they wouldn't believe it. He has been taught by countless companionships and every time it's just ended in him being disinterested and feeling like he was forced to learn. But at this time, he's so different. I don't get it.

I think it all started with him reading the scriptures. He wants to follow his family and make it a family affair. It's the weirdest thing ever - Brother Chaang was so quiet, never said a word when we ask questions. Now we teach lessons where he 1. Laughs. Yes. Brother Chaang can laugh! 2. Asks questions that are deep and related 3. Has comments about the things he reads. I think what we see in Brother Chaang is the power of the scriptures. When we read the scriptures everyday, it's like drinking water. He found that he enjoys the self confidence he has and that he wants to maintain those feelings. He therefore does it. He's well on his way to probably being baptized in either 2 or 3 weeks. He's a miracle. I thought about how this is the answer to Sister A's 4 years of prayers. She probably prayed everyday. Does that show that God didn't listen? No. It shows that God knew best and that God knew his timing.

Manob still hasn't come to Church but he had a realization this week that every Sunday and only on Sunday does business come up. He realized, however, that the business he goes to do never gets resolved. He therefore decided, as Brother Siriwid (the member who helped us teach) said, to step forward and go to Church no matter what happens.

Nxng is still struggling to keep basic commitments. I am so perplexed. He talks the talk a lot but he often fails to walk the walk as it were. He talks about how we must read scriptures but then he doesn't. And then he talks about how we must repent but then he doesn't. I am pretty sure that we will have to pray really hard that he will be able to do all the things that he must do to be prepared to be baptized.

A lot of people this week were unable to meet because of the new year. It's a huge thing in Thailand. They go around partying and go to different provinces to visit family. So this week we didn't see much of Party and we didn't see Aa and his family. Pong and Num also cancelled our appointment and failed to show up to Church. One of the hardest things you do as a missionary is to drop investigators. But there comes a point where you must do it. It's hard but they are simply not ready. We must leave the word to work on them.

The greatest lesson I learned this week was the lesson of strength. When life hands you a broken bow, like Nephi was given, you can either decide to sit there and complain about the bow or you can go and make another one. The choice is ours. Where does the true strength come from? It comes from making that new bow and finding the strength that only the Savior can provide.

I love the Savior. He doesn't just let us erase our mistakes like we would erase the mistakes on our homework but he literally gives us a whole new sheet. It's a wonderful thing to know that we can always rely on Him even in the hardest times in our lives. He knows who we are. That's why he cheers us on always. Satan, however, also knows who we are. And that's why he desires us to suffer because he knows who we can and will become as we keep God's commandments.

There is peace, safety and joy in the commandments. They aren't going to be convenient. If you think that life will convenient because you are Mormon or because you believe in God, you will find yourself extremely disappointed. The righteous will be tempted and tried the most.

There is joy in repentance and in relying on the atonement. I love that. But don't think your life will be easy because of the Gospel. Life will be hard but the Gospel will make life worth it. That's the point of view that will help us in the times of our greatest challenges. Let's say – “Why is it like this? I have always kept the commandments.” God knows that. The Gospel is there to comfort you, to cheer you and to help you move on with your life.

How I love Thailand and love the gospel. I love you all and pray for you all. Please never forget that He loves you.

Roi Et is so awesome. All of my areas have been so great. And this area is no exception. Everything's going very well and I know that God's watching out for us!


Elder Jacob Newman