Monday, October 28, 2013

running and is my mission already half over?

Dear Family,
I had a bunch of times this week where I would have JUST been studying something that morning and out of the blue someone would ask a question I literally just studied about. That was really crazy. Especially one day where I just randomly wondered the exact definition of the word Zion. Found out. Then that night, Sister Mary (my recent convert) had JUST finished the Book of Mormon!!! Then she asked me, "Sister, I have to know. What does the word Zion mean?"
Thank you to all who wished me a Happy Hump Day-- what's kinda funny is that, well, I didn't know it was my Hump Day. That's so crazy!

This week I remembered that I needed a diet. So Sis Packard and I sat down and made some goals together of how we'd make a daily routine in the morning a whole lot more clearly with our exercise habits. She's always been way in shape since she got here. I've slowly worked myself up to her level. So now that I can keep up with her, we've set running distances (which we now run faster and faster and need a longer distance route...) and pushing ourselves with other workout stuff.
Compared to the first time we went running, I think we tacked off like at least 10 minutes! That's saying something. And I get way less tired throughout the day now that we do them so consistently. The first stretch is a wakeup call like "Uhhhegghh" but then it's no sweat!
Let me be a witness: in order to be spiritually and mentally happy-- Your body MUST be in good PHYSICAL shape too! It changes everything. I highly suggest watching the new Mormon Message by Elder Nelson about the miracle of our bodies. We have these eyes that can see literally all the beauty around us in a 3D form, ears that can hear.... everything! It reminds me of the children's song  "My Heavenly Father Loves Me".
Speaking of which, I got to go into primary this week at church to help the kids with their primary sacrament meeting. They've never done it before! So I went in and helped teach some songs because, well, sometimes people can be a little tone-deaf here. It's so cute. So there's like, ONE little boy who knows the song "My Heavenly Father Loves Me" and he tries so hard to sing along. The rest are really quite and not confident. But this little boy keeps leading the gang! It was so cute. Primary here needs a little help in our branch, despite having 5 teachers for like 6 kids-- it's just something they've never done! It made me smile though. All these new experiences for all the members. And sacrament meeting will be so cute when they sing "Follow the Prophet"!
Our mute investigator has a baptismal date!
As for profound thoughts, I had another one this week about the Atonement.
If anyone reading this has ever felt like me, as in "What does the Atonement even mean?" then I understand where you're coming from. We understand, but then again, yeah, we really don't at the same time. No matter how long you've been a member. But my most favorite thing about it is that God knew that we'd be imperfect, thus we'd sin. If we sinned, there has to be punishment, because right and wrong exists. So God was willing to give his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to come down, pay for all the wrong-doings, slip-ups and imperfections of man because He was the only one who could. When you haven't done sin, you don't need to pay back justice!
But what if we had a debtor? Someone who we could pay back instead? And with that, He would teach you how to keep out of debt? It's like when your mom pays for your piano lessons and wants you to practice. If you didn't practice the piano to get better, your mom paid for no reason. You didn't change, you didn't learn.
Justice must be paid, but you know what? Christ is a gentle and loving debtor. A Redeemer. Go to Him with your troubles, he will ease the burden because He already paid for it. We aren't just paying him back either. But as a mom would proudly see her child learn the piano, He so simply just wants to see us learn for ourselves. Learning the piano doesn't pay back the mom's money, and so it is with the Savior.
But He loves us so much that he wants to see us in the recital of our lives.
Love you all. Let it be known, I know Christ is the Master Teacher.
Sister Monica Painter


Monday, October 21, 2013

Thai sign language and a new sister training leader

Dear Family,

This week I officially needed a heart-monitor because I had a HEART ATTACK! ..... Well, almost. But seriously. This week was probably the craziest since... I don't even know when. I am staying in Roi Et for another 9 weeks with Sister Packard though! Didn't move.

So I may as well start with the incident that caused it. So on Monday, Elder Yuen got a call that he would be training and needed to be in Bangkok the next morning by 9am-- it was already 4:30pm! So.... needless to say we all went for our very last Swenson's ice cream, had a tearful FHE , he got packed in 20 minutes, and we had a quick last photo and said goodbye. It was so fast and so hard that we were way sad.

My District in Roi Et
Next day, we're at district meeting. Sigh, 4 chairs. The other two have already left. It was raining in Roi Et. We began the meeting saying it felt weird without the other two. BOOM the door bursts open! Elder YUEN says frantically, "Have you seen my backpack?" and ran to the closet in the classroom. The second he bursts open the door, me and Sis Packard are SO SURPRISED that we SCREAM. Like, the loudest and most sincere of my whole life. :p WE COULD NOT BELIEVE OUR EYES! He was dead to us! Then he grabbed out his backpack (which he has a history of losing) and ran out the door with, "Okay bye love you all!" ......... WHAT JUST HAPPENED. He was gone as fast as he was back!

Then I realize, "We just got punked!!" and we run back after the door. Elder Cahoon and Yuen come in cracking up. Turns out the night before, their bus was full and they couldn't go. So they stayed until transfers because they would miss the meeting anyway, it being the last bus. SO MEAN. But then we all got to be together 2 more days, and then we ALL had to go to transfer meeting together! Road trip! It was so fun. And so we're all on the bus and Elder Yuen is getting all his important zone leader phone calls so we all know what's going down when we get there. We all got invited to come back Sis Packard and Elder Thomas had to renew visas.

Turns out that wasn't all! I overheard Elder Yuen say my name. I would have to be at a meeting at 9am. ..... What. Well, then he told me I had a calling! And so the next morning I attended my first meeting with Sister Senior, the Mission President's wife. I'm now a Sister Training Leader (STL) -- and I cover the Eesan! I follow-up with 4 companionships in Udon, Mahasarakham, and Kalasin. So like I told mom: Basically I now go to the Mission Council Meetings (Just Assistants to the President, Zone Leaders, and Sister Training Leaders with President and his wife) each month in Bangkok. It's kind of way humbling because now I have a direct line to President's office with the needs of the sisters in my areas. It's really been rewarding so far because I get to think of all the other sisters' well-being, not just me and Sis Packard, as well as exchange, followup with language milestones, etc. with them. It lets me look outward rather than inward. I'm way excited.

This week we built a fence the morning after we got home from Bangkok at 2am. We were like zombies chopping down trees. We literally chopped down the trees to make the fence. That's no joke. Hacked down the trees, lifted them across the jungle, and built a fence around their "cricket farm". Oh yes. This is real life.

We adopted Elder Wilson (my old district leader in Udon)-- he's way funny. He's quite an addition!

We had some set-backs with Est, but we will not give up on this amazing boy!

Oh, and hey. We taught a mute person. We literally have a mute investigator that can hear some words but not all, but cannot speak a single word, just scratchy sounds. Her name is Pumsii. We taught her who God was and how to pray with Sister Jampii, who knows Thai sign language. Pumsii prayed for her first time. Needless to say, I am learning Thai sign language now. ...Wait, is this real life?

I love you all,

Sister Painter
Rode by an elephant family. Way cool!

Sis. Pannida, my first companion is going home tomorrow.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Heavenly Father Can Fix This

Dear Family,

I had the weirdest thing happen to me this week-- my left eye went like 50% red. It was very attractive (said nobody ever.) More like totally weird. I woke up one night in the middle of the night and my eyes were watering. Weird. Woke up in the morning and BOOM "What is this?"

But it's fine, went to the doctor (the hospital. Same thing.) and he met with me for 36 seconds, told me "It's red. But not too red." and gave me some eyedrops. Thanks doc. Well, the eyedrops worked! But unfortunately that required Sis Packard's assistance every 4 hours.... And she didnt so much enjoy my "AHHH GET THAT AWAY FROM ME" when she'd come prodding near my eye. It was like putting on mascara for the first time all over again. It went something like this:

"Open your eye!"

"I am!"

"No you're not. Open it! And put your arms down."

Then she would proceed to practically sit on me so that I couldn't move my hands and drop it into my eye. The end. She's such a good nurse.

As for some funny things that happened:
-We had an FHE at Bro. Bah's house. For the activity, we played a game that was supposed to symbolize listening closely to the spirit. So one person stands in the middle and then when they finally touch someone (with their eyes closed) they say an animal name, and the person touched has to make the sound that animal would make and the person who's it guesses who it was that made the sound.
So Elder Tatton gets tapped on the shoulder by the sweet as honey Sis Jan. She is so tender and kind. And she says chicken. So, in all fun, in the total silence, Elder Tatton makes the LOUDEST chicken "baGAWK!!" I've ever heard. Sis Jan went SAILING away in terror!! Oh, it was so hilarious. So now whenever she passes Elder Tatton she laughs.

Also, we finally got that giant trunk out of Sis Jan's house!

Sis Suri is a tiny lady who is our primary president, and the Branch President's wife's housekeeper. She is TINY and is a firm believer that if you prayer for it, it'll happen. Her faith is unstoppable. She always suggests praying and her reason is: "Heavenly Father can fix this!!" so we were 'stumped' so to speak with the tree trunk. And after we prayed, BOOP out it came. She was like, "Ya see?!?"

So we ended up taking Sis Suri, Sis Bunlawm and Sis Jan with us out to find an investigator. The investigator was busy. So Sis Suri says "We need to pray right now to know where to go now!" So we did, all 5 of us, right on that street, cars driving passed us. We get done, and we all kind of just walk the same direction. And see this lady. We all verge on her! We sit down with her, and it turns out, she HAS a Book of Mormon, she knows how to pray, and she believes all of it! I wish you could have seen the look of victory on tiny Sis Suri's face. "Ya see?!?"

And I did see. We sometimes don't recognize the power of a prayer of faith. But tiny little Suri does. And when she prays with God's will in mind, she expects things to happen because she trusts in the power of the Almighty.

This week was harder for us. Nothing came 'easy', that's for sure, as well as a major heartcrunch when we got a text from BiiMay telling us that he could not be baptized. We were shocked. What happened? We couldn't contact him for days. Then he finally picked up the phone. His parents want him to be a monk in two years. Sigh. That is so hard. I asked him what he wanted to do. He didn't know. That was a real drop. A real sudden drop.

But in the midst of a dark night, we arised to a bright dawn. Est, our other dater, called me for our 'over the phone' teaching appointment while he was away in Khongaen. We had gotten a few minutes behind, so he had called first. "Are you going to teach me today?" he had not forgotten, and he was anxious to learn more. He has learned everything he needs to to qualify for his baptism on the 26th, but we wanted to set his vision passed that day, for when he would receive the Priesthood as a worthy male.

We opened with a prayer over the phone, taught him and so on. I asked him what he understood and how he felt about it-- he relayed every piece of information perfectly. He had to have taken notes or something! Then he said, "Sister, I feel.. I feel proud." In that moment I felt my eyes tear up. I felt impressed to tell him how proud God was of him, and how I could not describe how proud I was of him. I have watched him change his life. He walked up to the church gates willingly with his sister. He did not have to come. He accepted 2 different dates. He danced in a talent show he was not even a member for. And when his sister left for Bangkok and he went to Khongaen, he read his scriptures in a hospital bed. He was bedridden for a week, but he never forgot who he was, or what he was preparing for.

We stumbled upon a house in the back of the middle of nowheres-ville. We saw a tiny little girl in the arms of a mom. We felt impressed to stop there. The daughter was almost 1, her name was Daengmo (watermelon). The mom's name was Doom. They had an old grandma as well. They welcomed us in to say hello. We got to know each other a second, gave them the Family Proclaimation, said a few things, and asked if we could come back and see them sometime. Doom warmly agreed.
Yesterday we didn't know where to go for one open hour. Everyone had fallen through, even backup plans. I suggested, "Doom?" and Sis Packard readily agreed, saying she was just thinking about her. We went. She, the grandma, the grandpa, the daugher, and the nephew, all welcomed us. I asked her if she had read the Proclaimation. She indeed had. She said, "I want to come to your church on Sunday. It starts at 9am, right?" ..... Whoa. We sat down and shared a message of who they were, and how to speak with God. We prayed with Doom. When we were done, she said, "That was so sacred. We really ARE His children, aren't we?"

A true miracle. A woman in a wooden home on the side of the canal just found her Father.

I don't think I could have ever known what I was being prepared for when I first put on my missionary name tag. These things are not easy. But when they are led by a loving Heavenly Father? You awake to the light of a beautiful dawn, every morning, even if you are wiped. Even if you are totally out of energy. You overcome your physical boo-hoo's and feed your spirit. We're spiritual beings having a human experience. If only we could remember that, all the time. 

Conference was wonderful, we got to watch it in English! I highly suggest reviewing those words again. Especially, remember who you are. Remember your role that you play on this earth. Play it well, to the best of your ability. Play it right. And love it.


Sister Painter

Monday, October 7, 2013

Getting Trunky   Oct. 7 2013

Dear Family,

As for the title, I suppose I should explain. No, I'm not particularly trunky. BUT! We definitely hacked down a GIANT TREE that fell down in Sis Jan's yard this week. We had machete's, axes, giant Thai knifes, and the like. As for me, I wielded the large clippers. But we vastly underestimated the blister, ant, and scratch benefits of chopping out and PULLING OUT a giant trunk. Once we got the whole thing hacked up, we went for the doozy. The trunk. Which just so happened to have roots one foot thick. It was ridiculous! And with 7-8 of us, we still didn't get it out! So that's this friday's adventure again. So great.

Other than that, this week was graced with a nice cold. Both in weather and in health. But didn't stop us from getting our goals we had made! Everyone in our district made balanced this week. You know what that means?? We're making legit "The District 101" sport jerseys finally. It was what we planned to do. 101 stands for Roi Et, because, well, thats what the name means!

I don't even know what week this is, if I were to count. BUT, this week makes 6 months for me in country. I got here for conference weekend, and now it's conference again! We watch it this weekend. I'm super excited!

We also threw a surprise birthday party for Elder Tatton this week. And then the next day, a mix up occurred and somehow we were having another birthday party for him and Brother Bah, who just got baptized like last week. So we planned a surprise party, cancelled it, and then in the end surprisingly had one anyway and it was legit!! So that was the time I surprised myself with a surprise party by accident. Enough miscommunication turned into a great party! Tell me someone else you know that can surprise themself with an unexpected surprise party that they planned themselves. HA. ..... ("Tell me someone who bought more cookies than me!!!" -Despicable Me "Take that tiny toilet!!")

One day this week we went and ate a real Eesan lunch at Sis Duanjan (Moon) 's house with her family and her sister. Turns out her sister and her daughter are less-active! That sunday they both came back and are making preparations to be ready for the temple next year. Yesssss. I love when people recapture their vision.

I have mixed feelings about transfers. Everyone here is kind of getting a little nervous about it because nobody wants to leave here. It almost feels like getting voted off the island. Either way, if a single person moves (which they will no doubt) the district will automatically change around. Just kinda how morphing works. But then again, with change comes more opportunities to progress. So I'm mixed. If it were up to me, I'd want to stay here. I really feel like there's a ton more I could do for 9 more weeks. Whatever happens will be what's meant to happen. I definitely learned that 1. From my parents 2. From last transfer. I had no idea I would be leaving Bangkok after 24 hours and BAM here I am in the greatest place in the most rewarding point of my mission so far.

Either way, there's always stuff to improve. I'm happy to go where I'm needed. But until then, I will be finding, teaching, and baptizing those who are so ready here in Roi Et! And I will be doing it with a marshmallow sling! .... That may be our pday activity today.

As some funny things that have happened this week:

We taught a lesson to our family we're helping to go the temple altogether, (the same man who wants to be named Fernando Sancho) and while I was teaching, Sis Packard had her little eyes on a mouse running around the kitchen behind them. Then, a cricket was on my shoulder for 5 minutes straight. THEN, a lizard came right next to my face, ate a bug, and ran away. THEN as we left, that cricket had somehow returned to my back AGAIN, and I rode my bike across the street for another 5 minutes going about 20mph before Sis Packard rides up, smacks it off my back, and we realize we had crossed the highway street with a lucky cricket. Needless to say, I felt .1% less safe after my Mulan creature was gone! :p Hahaha.

We held our very first sports night at the Roi Et church this saturday-- HUGE SUCCESS! Tons of people! And it even got one of our member's nephews to come, who then came to church and primary the next day! YES! His name is Okie. And he is a porker. Soooo cute. He doesn't say much, but he loved primary. And he wants a kid's picture book of mormon like his cousin Biw!

Oh yeah, two more daters this week!! Biw and Yuuy! We took Sis Faa out on a bike ride out to find Yuuy and the lesson went great, regardless of it being in her relative's hair salon with hair dryers blowing. So it was kinda like this (talking loud over the sound): "THE HOLY GHOST SPEAKS WITH A VERY SOFT VOICE AND CAN WITNESS... etc etc." It was kinda ironic, but in the end she just wanted to be baptized.

Talk about ready. She was a miracle in herself! We lost track of her because her number changed, then as luck would have it, she saw us riding by on the street where she was tending her cousin! The same little boy doing the superhero poses for us, if you remember Doon. Anyway, she just so happened to see us at the perfect time, RAN AFTER US down the street, and we finally got back in contact. Oh man. It was a miracle. Then we had KFC with a little member who is 11 and afraid of going to primary with the other kids to try to get to be friends better. We knew she loved fried chicken. So we brought it, and by the end, she burped in front of us. So I'd say we're friends.

Unfortunately this week was also school-term's end, so basically a huge pool of our investigators, including our 2 daters, went home until the end of the month! BAH! This is like BYU during December!! 

As a last note, a very very very very old member stood up in Relief Society yesterday to bear her testimony. She got up, with her no teeth, grasping the whiteboard, and said: "Thanks to the Lord! Thanks to the Lord! HALLELUJIAH! HALLELUJIAH! Amen." like.... probably 7 or 8 times until she sat back down. It was priceless. No teeth, all gums, but 110% sincere.

I love this.


Sister Painter

Thursday, October 3, 2013


This week was super fun. We had a crazy awesome talent show that had a great turn out-- a full bus to go to Khongaen to meet up with the other branches in our zone area. They competed, sort of, and our branch definitely went all out with incredible costumes, etc. In fact.... even us missionaries got dressed up! I'm sending tons of photos.

A hilarious moment of this week: we met a lady who had lived in Indiana for a little while. So she could speak a little bit of english. ....She was like 90+years old with no teeth and so she would say with her flappy lips: "I lub pizza." and then proceeded to tell me in Thai that she didn't care if it was square or round. She loved pizza. And then, a snake came out of nowhere!! ...And she chopped it in half with a wooden plank board!! A picture is included for reference. We laughed so hard. That snake's teeth were actually huge. She saved us!

We had 5 investigators at church. It was insaneeeee. The night before I talked to our investigator we have been teaching for 6 weeks who had still never gone to church. Nang turned out to have a misunderstanding at some point with other missionaries, and us, and members, until she thought that if you go to church, it means that you are deciding to be baptized that day at church. I cleared that one up on the phone and the next day we left an hour early from our house to go to her house and pick her up, so to speak.

She sees us sitting outside her house and she says to me, "Sister, I don't have time to chat for a second. I'm working." I felt like I should just smile and not budge. So I stayed there at the table and just told her that her haircut looked nice. We were near her young son, who was sitting on an ice chest with a baby chick sitting next to him as he ate his rice. He turned towards the opening of the home shop and asked, "Mom, do you want to go to church?"

I didn't hear a response. Then I heard her son say: "Go." Pretty soon, she comes out and asks if she can come in pants. I'm all for it. I see her son jump off the ice chest and get a helmet.

They were both coming!

Just a few minutes before that, we went and literally... woke up our other investigator. So while she was showering and getting dressed, we went and saw Nang. So Yuuy, the one getting ready, eventually asked if Nang could take her.

So all 3 of them: Nang, Got and Yuuy rode on a motorcycle next to us and all 5 of us went to church that morning, met by 2 more investigators of ours, Biw (Molly and Mary's nephew, who is now hoping and praying he can be baptized before the day we ever move) and Nan, a tiny cute little lady. I just love the thai's. All of them.

Buk moved to Bangkok for 'close-term' of school to go test. So she won't be back until Biimay and Est's baptism day. That was so sad to say bye, but I have a feeling I'll see her again. :)

I just can't express what my mission has done for me and to me. It has changed everything. I admit, the beginning was hard. I didn't know really what I was doing. And you know what? Everything clicked when I came to Roi Et. I told myself this transfer was my game-changer.

It turned out to be my life-changer.

I have a firm testimony in the teachings of the church-- in the ability to watch people change their lives. I am a firm believer in the rules of how to be a successful missionary-- when we work hard to make our goals, miracles happen. Miracles are always happening.

I realize nothing that I do is done alone. This is truly the work of God. When we got here, approximately 70+ people would be at church on Sunday. Yesterday, we had 110 people. Do you know what that means? It means He's real. He's listening. He's doing.

I love my mission. I love it more than I can say. It has changed everything.

Sister Monica Painter