April 4, 2011
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