Monday, April 25, 2011

This Was a Crazy Week!

April 25, 2011

Dearest Family,

So talk about a crazy and confusing week! Last night I traveled to Bangkok to renew my visa. We took NakhonChai Air first class to Bangkok. Imagine going first class on an airplane but actually being on a bus. The “flight” attendants wear traditional/stereotypical flight attendant uniforms. They gave us drinks (I had hot Ovaltine which is huge here in Thailand) and then they gave us sandwiches and fruit. The seats were extremely comfortable but to say that I slept 2 hours is an overstatement. So if this email sounds a bit non sequitur, I’m sorry. I am simply so tired. We will probably just take it easy here in Bangkok before we leave to go back.

I saw Elder Seymour today as we went to renew our visas. He is always so loving and I am grateful for his special friendship. We have a lot of memories together that I will never forget.

This week my companion and the Thai Zone Leader went to work in Burriram at the request of the AP’s. While they were gone, Elder Harris and I had a delightful exchanges where we were totally rained on and had lots of canceled appointments. But in the end we taught with a really funny member named Sister Noy who talks very loudly and is super funny.

We also had a really cool experience as we taught a young 19 year old off the invite. His name is Van and at first he wasn't super interested. Then we talked and we perked up his interest and we prayed. He didn't show anything at first but then we talked and evaluated why he didn't feel anything. Then he prayed for us and he asked if God was there. He received an answer on the spot and was grinning from ear to ear. His schedule is a bit confusing and we haven't gone to see him again but Elder Harris and Elder Charit should get a chance again.

I went to Yasothon this week with Elder Grover. We taught a cute little family named Theb (angel) and Joy. They are Christians but are struggling to accept certain aspects of the Church - mainly the Word of Wisdom and the Book of Mormon. They are a good couple though and they continue to go to Church regularly. Elder Grover is a great guy - humble, hard working and loving. He's been a great blessing for Yasothon. We had some good times as I explored one of the smallest areas in the mission. Elder Grover's really dedicated and wants to help Yasothon a lot.

In other happenings this week, Bunmii and Sanya are doing great! They are going to be baptized this Sunday by President Had. The both passed their interviews.

Yesterday we also met Sister Grxsanna at Church. She had the best news of the week - her husband gave her permission to be baptized for real this time. After a setback with coffee and her husband's indifference, she received permission and will be baptized this weekend also! She was so excited.

With all the changes in the future, that leaves us with very few investigators but I am confident we can find. Rag is still struggling to overcome his alcohol addiction but he is trying so hard. I have rarely met investigators who are as dedicated as he is. He is determined to be baptized and to make his life better. We went to pick him up for Church but we couldn't find him so we had to go.

It's weird to think that this Mother's Day is the last time I’ll talk on the phone with you from Thailand. I am going to miss Thailand so much. I will miss things like glass bottles, hospital uniforms, fruit carts, dentist clinics, Thai fast food, drinking water with a straw always, sitting on traditional Thai mats, eating from a sticky rice holder, waing people and everything in between. But I know that my time in Thailand will always have a special place in my heart. I am different. Besides weighing 50 pounds less, I am not quite the same person. I am Thai-ified.

I am grateful for the Thai people whom I love so deeply. They are so funny, loving, caring and just amazing people. When we love those who we serve and pray for that charity we will remember the Charity of our Savior in giving his life for us. I am so grateful for His sacrifice and for its infinite power in our lives. Easter is a special time. May we all remember to thank our Father in Heaven for the gift of his Son. I know that he lives and loves us. Let us live our lives in a way that we always would be comfortable standing in the presence of the Savior. I love the work and I am excited for another week to come with another trip to Yasothon. I love you all.

Love you all lots!

Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, April 18, 2011


April 18, 2011

Dear Family,

Songkran was the MAJOR happening this week. I don't know that I can begin to describe what this water festival is really like. Imagine this: Streets are full of garbage can sized tanks full of water. People take buckets, cups, pots and use them to throw water on all people who are passing by. Squirt gun sales are insane. People sell thousands of buckets, bowls and other equipment for Songkran. Children and adults both do it. Imagine walking down a major street and the traffic is so heavy that you can't go anywhere. Imagine people sitting in the back of trucks with buckets and barrels full of water that they are throwing at you. And the water often is chilled by giant cubes of ice. Then imagine the loudest music you have ever heard.

We played on Thursday. In Ubon they have a huge park that was set up like a water park. Seriously. You can't imagine the amount of water and how wet you really get. Motorcyclists, pedestrians, even cars, they all get wet. For three days they play really hard. To the Thais, it actually is a time of year to ask for blessings, it's the Thai New Year. Originally Songkran was one day and people would go to other houses where the adults would pour water on them and bless them. But, it's not really a religious thing. We got a chance to see it with Sister Grxsanna. She did it to a friend who she introduced to the Gospel, a 20 plus year old guy. She blessed him that he would live his life according to the Gospel. What you do is you kneel down and pour water into the cupped hand of an adult and then they pour it over your shoulders and proclaim blessings.

So Songkran was a nice bit of a break. It's an interesting cultural study.

Here are some funny things from this week:

1) One of my favorite was when Sister Grxsanna told us that the government asked people to not play until the assigned day because they were worried about official documents getting wet. It was so funny.

2) We got lost on the way to visit Bunmii and Sanya and were stuck in Songkran traffic. It was crazy.

3) One of our investigators dropped us because she had a dream where the elephant God gave them supposed winning lottery numbers? She is still really nice to us but she wants her husband to go at it alone.

4) The members here in Ubon call me "Watermelon" because my face got a little sun burnt. It's a joke off of the word faraang which means guava but also foreigner. I said I am not a faraang but that I am a Thai and one of them said, with your face like this you are a watermelon.

5) The members here are pretty funny. It's definitely a change of pace from Roi Et. The branch president is a return missionary. Most of the members are fairly long term members. There is one member who is 79 years old - Mother Surii - meaning sun - who has been a member for almost 40 years. Wow! She's really funny, too.

This week was a lot of fun and a lot of heat! It's getting so hot here. I guess the season is upon us. Yesterday there was a crazy rain storm that left us stuck at the Church for quite a bit. I learned the phrase for raining cats and dogs in Thai. Dang, I don't know what I am going to do when I can't learn Thai all the time. I love Thailand and I am going to miss it so much. Thai people are so funny and I love their culture. I am going to miss the members, the food, and everything in between.

Bunmii and Sanya, our investigators who are referrals from President Had, are doing really well. Sanya gave up alcohol and has been clean for five weeks. He had alcoholism to the point that he would shake if he gave it up. He's doing so well! They are a cute little Isaan family. Isaan people are so nice and loving and have so much namjai - generosity. They give us corn to eat every time we meet with them.

We are working with Brother Rag who is striving to overcoming his addiction to alcohol. Sister Grxsanna interviewed for baptism this week. It came out that she was still drinking coffee. So, she had to wait. We are going to see her this Tuesday.

You asked about getting to the church in Ubon. We take a Tuk Tuk to Church. Our driver, Father Thiam, is the uncle of a member and a current investigator. Imagine this - a fifty year old short Thai Isaan man who laughs heartily and speaks Isaan with us. I love him to pieces. It takes us about 20 minutes to get to the Church. We cross the river to get from Warin to Ubon.

I am grateful for the Savior, who's always patient with me and helps me everyday. He lives and loves us. Our Father in Heaven is mindful of us all and the Gospel has power to change our lives. May we all follow him and do the things that are right. Often we have to realize that God's blessings come in many shapes and sizes. With a positive outlook while seeing the good things - from the beauty of Warin to the deliciousness of eating red ants in a dish - there is happiness all around us.

I love you all so much.


Elder Jacob Newman

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ubon Ratchathani Warin Chamrab

April 4, 2011

Dear Family

Welcome to Ubon Ratchathani Warin Chamrab. And so the journey of the last area of my mission begins. My new companion is Elder Gudmundsen from California. He's been out about 6 moves now. He's been with Thais except for his trainer, Elder Crowley, and now me. Warin is pretty small, but it’s a nice place.

After transfers last Thursday, we rode on a bus for about 12 hours to Ubon. We got out at the Church and Thiam, a relative of a member who drives the missionaries around all the time, came to pick us up. He took us to Warin, an additional 20 minutes.

I miss Roi Et. I didn't really think it would come to the point where I would say that but I feel like I want to go back! From Sister Dawgrag's delicious food to Elder Merrell's humor and President Sutheb and his wife and the Isaan smaller town culture of Roi Et, it's one of the best areas in the mission.

Ubon has the biggest church building of the Church in all of Southeast Asia. There are about 70 -100 people who show up every week. There's a returned missionary from the 80s who is the branch president. And there are lots of priesthood holders. It's a pretty good branch.

Here in Warin, there are quite a few investigators that are really good but are stuck on some concerns. We have two families who are referrals from the district president that are doing pretty well but they live about 60 kilos away.

I learned this week was how much I love Roi Et. On our last day there, before driving us to Kohn Kaen, Waruni and Sutheb took us to their house to eat a delicious meal. They had a kind of rice that's way healthy and unprocessed, the most delicious fish in the world with a tamarind sauce, different kinds of vegetable dishes and a mild soup. It was amazing. There were also mangos and some Thai treats. I love that family so much. Jampii (Mother Jampii) helped Mother Waruni make everything. They love the Gospel. Mother Jampii is Mary Poppins with a motorcycle and a carpet bag. It's awesome.

I love Roi Et for all the miracles that happened there. We worked hard and we saw some great things. I know that the Gospel has power. It's not just simply an invention that we make have power. We cannot deny certain things in our lives no matter what the world may say. The Gospel has power as we open our hearts at least a little bit to that power. Think of Brother Chaang. Think of Aa and Naang. Think of Egg in Bangkapi. Think of Jiab in Nongkhai. These people changed their lives in such a drastic way.

Often when we speak of missions, we speak of having fun, feeling the Spirit, baptisms. When I look back on my mission, I will reflect on those things for sure, but I will reflect upon the growth of character also. One day in Thonburi Elder Panom gave me a great example. He said, "Elder Newman have you ever seen a big, beautiful tree before?" I told him that I had. He proceeded to compare our lives with that of a tree. We will have winds, rains, days where the sun beats down upon us. As a sapling, a tree must develop strength. But if it can survive beyond that point, we can become that tree. The most beautiful words in Mormonism are the words "Heavenly Father". We are saplings but when He looks at us we aren't just simply a bunch of twigs, we are something much greater than that. The beauty of the Gospel lies in the power of God to make us more like Him - eternal progression. That's the purpose of this life.

I know the Gospel is true. I know that our Redeemer lives and one day we will see how he helped us through the hardest times in our lives.

I love you all and pray for you.

Elder Jacob Newman