Monday, February 28, 2011

Aa and Naang Are Still Doing So Well!

February 28, 2011

Dearest Family,

This was an interesting week. We are going through a lot of changes with our investigators. Aa and Naang are still doing so well. Saturday they didn't meet with us but they should be getting baptized in the next two weeks. The thing that I have noticed about them, as with Brother Chaang, is that the Gospel changed their personalities. Brother Chaang never really showed much interest in anything before he started to sincerely learn the Gospel. But now, when we go see him, he smiles, brings us water, feeds us his special sauce for unripened mangos (a fish sauce of some sort) and then he smiles more. The Gospel changed Naang as she opened her heart and saw the fruits of the Gospel. She loves to tell us about what she reads from the scriptures.

I really like that phrase that you wrote from Valerie Whitehead's farewell, “the atonement is infinite.” The Thai translation adds a new meaning to it that I hadn't really thought of before. The Atonement of Christ has no borders, as we say in Thai. It means that there are no bounds to the power that He has to help and heal us. I believe that we are all a little bit broken. We all have problems, little and big, concerns, obstacles and things that we don't understand. Often the best option for us isn't to simply have God take away these problems, but for us to learn through them. The most amazing part of the atonement is the patience of our Redeemer. Christ was patient in all His sufferings. At those times where we simply feel that we cannot go on or we do not understand why things have worked out the way that they have, we must remember that Christ endured with patience and with love.

We need to live by faith and hope in the power of the atonement with no borders. We see our problems and wonder why God simply doesn't intervene and fix it all. God is our Loving Father in Heaven. Even though we feel confused, burdened, and stressed in our lives, the Savior is always there for us but often leaves us to find the strength within us.

My time is Roi Et is a testimony to this. It has been very stressful because of situations that have occurred. And while I do not understand many things, there is a force that continues to aid me as I try to help Heavenly Father's children know who they are. That's the news of the Gospel - who we really are. Do we remember who we are? Most of our problems in life result from a kind of identity crisis, I suppose you could say. We are children of God. Do we remember that when we feel abandoned? Do we remember that when life gets us down or when we think things are rough? I know that we are all children of God. We aren't any less. And as such, we have an inheritance. God loves us so much. God will always remember us.

It's really really hot here in Roi Et. Luckily we are starting the summer schedule tomorrow. All is going fairly well, though. A bit tired. And still stressed out but that's just a Newman characteristic, I guess. By the way, our new Zone leader is Elder Perich - awesome. I love Elder Perich. We know each other from Thonburi and he's way good and extremely helpful.

So, we are finding a lot of new investigators this week. We’re not sure what's going to happen with Chaysid. We have to figure out some matters with him. And then there are also some new investigators that we are working with - a 22 year old name Jo, some 20 plus year olds named Chad and Gawn, and a cute little family named Jaroen (Dad) and Pongphad (Mom) and their daugther who live about 10 kilos from the Church - riding our bikes to their house at seven o'clock at night was a little bit nerve-wracking, it was extremely dark.

To say this week was strange in other random happenings would be a bit of an understatement - let's put it in a few words. District conference translation for 6 hours, running into a faraang at the Bxng (public park in Roi Et) who tried to take us to the police station - don't worry about that one. And lots of hours of inviting to find new investigators. All in all, it was a memorable and fun week. Elder Merril is great. I really like him a lot. He works hard and is patient. That's the best characteristic to have - patience.

I love you all so much. I know the Gospel has power and will help us in our times of trial!

Love you lots,

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, February 21, 2011

Still in Roi Et

February 21, 2011

Dearest Family,

This last week was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. It all started out with the announcement about transfers. Elder Thrap was moved to Ayutthaya (the ancient city). I didn't get to see him off in Bangkok and I wasn't expecting that I would still be here in Roi Et.

The day Elder Thrap left was particularly challenging. The ride to Mahasarakham, which was proceeded by the members sending Elder Thrap off with an activity at the Church (Think Thai dancing, roses, an excellent talk by Sister A about the atonement.), was a hard ride. All the way there I thought of the first day Elder Thrap came to Roi Et. He changed my mission forever. Our time together wasn't the easiest time of my mission but it was a time where I felt so appreciated and loved by my companion.

We got to Sarakham and I taught Elder Thrap the last word I would teach him as his companion - the word for us to say goodbye - laa. We laa gan (say goodybe to one another). After hugs and pictures, he drove away. I will miss him.

As far as other news... This week we had Aa at Church but Naang fell ill so she couldn't attend. They are doing so well. They read the scriptures like champions and really feel the difference the Gospel is making in their lives. They are doing their best to keep their commitments. Chaysid is doing pretty good but we aren't exactly sure what his story is with only attending the first hour of Church.

As far as Manob, for right now he has to be set aside. Unfortunately he took up smoking again and isn't really reading the scriptures. I felt very sad about this but he needs a bit of a break. And then of course there is Phaybuun, he isn't doing too well either. His legal issue with his girlfriend is so complex and is taking a lot of time. So our investigator pool is dwindling a bit. But we are out to find new investigators and that's what we will do.

Every area goes through patterns. Roi Et just got out of a super great period and now it's the testing period. Sometimes it's hot and tiring but there's nothing better than trying. That's all God expects is that we try.

My new companion, Elder Merril, is a transfer four missionary who speaks Thai very clearly and is an extremely hard worker. Also bold. It's been pretty great so far. Elder Merril is very funny and has a fun personality. it will be a good six weeks together. He's helping me be less stressed out and take things at a slower pace all while working hard. He sings well, is funny and way sabaai.

So trials. I know that God gives us challenges because He loves us. In the crisis of the moment, that is the hardest thing to say. We may not understand why we have to go through a certain trial. And sometimes trials continue for a long period of time. But often the learning isn't found in the end of the trial but in the heat of it. What we can obtain from the Gospel is hope. Hope is the courage to face the future despite the fact that we have fears. Fear is a natural reaction because we can't control so many things.

I know that as we love God and love our fellow men and just try our best, everything will work out. Our lives won't be comfortable just because we keep the commandments. The right thing isn't always the easiest thing to do. But it is the right thing to do.

I know that God lives and loves us. Even on those days where's it's really hot and we aren't finding anyone. God doesn't forget us in the midst of trial and affliction, but some of the answers we are just meant to find for ourselves. Keeping the commandments, reading the scriptures daily, praying daily and living our lives in harmony with the Gospel will bring us hope. The source of hope is Jesus Christ.

I know the Gospel is true. God loves us and wants us to be happy.

Love you all dearly and deeply,

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, February 14, 2011

Kahn Kaen Zone Conference

Life Presses on in Roi Et!

February 14, 2011

Dearest Family,

Life presses on in Roi Et! This week was not nearly as stressful because we started off the week with a visit to the DINOSAUR museum in Kalasin which was super awesome. That made the week a lot more relaxing. Today will be a little stressful because we probably need to start packing. We haven’t heard yet, but one of us will most likely be moving. I will miss Elder Thrap immensely as we move on, whether I move or he moves. I know that he will continue to do marvelous things in Thailand.

Roi Et will have such a special place in my heart. It's the area where I really learned how to be a missionary and where I learned how to help people progress in the Gospel. From Brother Chaang's six week transformation to Wirayud, Alum, Nxng, and everyone else in between, Roi Et is a place where I tried my hardest and saw fruit that I could clearly see. I feel so blessed to have come here and met all the wonderful members. I love all them all. It's a place where I realized that I have to rely on the Lord and never give up. I learned that I must diligently try to follow the example of Jesus Christ always, no matter how hard it is.

After serving in Thonburi, I know that we have to live our lives on God's timetable. I’ve seen that here in Roi Et. I need to be patient, love the Lord and try my hardest. That's all he expects. Isn't it amazing to know that Jesus Christ makes up the difference when we trust in Him? We will make mistakes and find problems in the journey of life. But the greatest news is that we don't have to face them alone. Brother Sirawid (a member here in Roi Et) always says, "Coming into the Church doesn't mean that we won't have challenges but it does mean that we won't have to face them alone. We will receive divine protection."

Yesterday I was called upon to give a blessing to a sister who wants to be a missionary but has hepatitis B so she needs treatment before she can go. It will take months to recover. She must learn to "อดทนด้วยดี" - endure through it well. All will work out. I am trying to do the same. We must endure diligently always. I love the Lord and I love that He always helps me.

In other good news, Aa and Naang came to Church. They are doing so well. They continue to read from the scriptures daily and they are progressing very well. We recently dropped Manob, who went to Bangkok to find money. He just needs time and to be in a less stressful situation to make this covenant. Phaybuun is a bit on the back burner right now. Party is back but he needs to be going to Church regularly before we can do much of anything with him. We also taught a young man named Park this week who was really quite good - he got an answer to his prayer in the lesson. It was a cool experience. This weekend I did exchanges in Sarakham. They don't have a lot of super interested investigators right now but they are working hard and trying their best.

May God bless you all. I love you and pray for you daily.


Elder Jacob Newman

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This Was A Challenging Week

February 7, 2011

Dearest Family,

Here in Roi Et, life rolls on as I approach my 14th moves in Thailand. It's so crazy to think how close I am to finishing my mission. Of course, it's somewhat exciting. But to be entirely honest, it's terrifying. I will miss about 1,000,000 things about Thailand, from soy dogs, coke in a bag, pharmacies on every street corner, places to buy food every 10 feet, elephants in the streets, Thai people, their language, Isaan eating mats, Bangkok nights, to everything else that's amazing about Thailand. I don't know how I feel about going back to America where I am afraid I will not be able to speak Thai every day all day long and talk to people about the Gospel all day in Thai. So it's a mixed feeling.

This past weekend we went to teach Brother Chaang with Sister Waruni and President Sutheb. I feel like they are my Thai parents. They call me their son and I call her Mom. I call him Prathaan though. Although, he might as well be dad. It's so amazing to have such an intimate connection with these people.

Our investigators were a particular challenge this week but we are working our hardest and trying our best.

Brother Phaybuun is being a little stubborn lately. He still hasn't attended Church regularly and he hasn't kept appointments lately. His baptismal date was scheduled for this week but he didn't do his part. He has only attended Church one time and he hasn't really been too diligent in keeping commitments. It's very unfortunate to see how he knows the Gospel will bless him but he doesn't act on that knowledge fully.

Brother Manob is desperately poor. He is so in debt that he has to continue to go into debt further and further to stay alive. He sells rice and noodles - a typical Thai restaurant - that sells for about 25 - 30 baht per plate. So, his life isn't going too well at this time. He feels like he can't close on Sundays because he has five debt collectors who will come to hunt him down daily - asking for funds that he just can't provide a lot of times. He still prays and reads but going to Church is a challenge. This weekend he went to Bangkok to ask to borrow more money from his older Sister.

Brother Aa, Sister Naang and Sister Naamkhaang are all struggling to get to Church and to keep the Sabbath day holy. This week they will need to attend Church in order to make their baptismal date. They are keeping other commitments very well, but Church seems to be a problem for them.

Chaysid is doing very well. He told us that the scriptures have power and that he views the Book of Mormon as a sacred book. He's a bit hard to read sometimes but he keeps commitments and has come to sacrament meeting weekly. He likes meeting with us and likes to read the scriptures. I don't know if I said this but he has also had a broken leg for the past 6 months that still hasn't healed so he's fairly homebound. But he still makes it out to Church every week. This last Sunday, he was our only investigator at Church, unfortunately.

We recently met a new investigator named Breeze and he's doing really well. This Sunday he came to Church, but didn't make it in time for the sacrament and so he came back when we were eating lunch and we taught him for the third time. He has a lot of problems in his life and wants to find peace.

Brother Nxng, however, did not come to Church on time for his confirmation and only stayed at Church for 15 minutes. This week was definitely a week of trials, as Wirayud also was still in Chiang Mai and didn't get confirmed either.

Basically, the thing that I learned this week is that not everything works out as we plan. As we live our lives according to the Gospel, we aren't guaranteed to be happy all the time but we are guaranteed that we will know where true happiness comes from and that we must live our lives in accordance with Gospel standards. Often choosing the right comes at great personal sacrifice and while it's always the right thing to do it isn't the easiest or the most pain free thing to do. The question is “are we going to live a life that is comfortable or are we going to live a life that is right?”

I love the Lord and love His work. It isn’t easy but we must press onward and be true in the faith. Missionary work isn’t always fun but it’s always worth it.

Love you all so much and pray for you daily.

Elder Jacob Newman