Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year 2014 (A Proclamation)

Dear Family,

I am beyond excited about the Gilbert temple. I'm dying to see it finished and I wish I could be at the festivities. I can't wait to one day go in there! It's beautiful!
This has been the one and only Christmas season I'll be spending in Thailand, and I can't even tell you how crazy they love New Years. It is way close to how we celebrate Christmas... family-wise, at least. It's really cool how it works, because the New Year falls right in the middle of rice planting seasons so people get to rest, go home, and be with their families. So we've been seeing a ton of people could back into town and little reunions between people is so cute on the side of the street.
For those who I didn't skype last week, we had a Christmas 5-day celebration at our church building, which included a live-action play of the Nativity, a fat Santa (Elder Thomas.... who then was pummeled by children like that Rat thing on the Goofy Movie during 'Lester's Possum Pals' :p) and it was just all around cool. It literally felt like Christmas that night, and guess what? I'M FREEZING! Thailand doesn't have heat, anywhere, so there is literally no escape even in our own house. Showering is painful and tear-provoking.
We also had a Christmas party in Udon with President Senior, who treated us to lunch, a fun cookie decorating activity, and a great set of songs and stories. It was way fun to be with them for Christmas.
Right before Christmas I actually thought I was being transferred! Not so! Turns out I stayed, and brought back my #3 trainee. I was severely humbled at the idea that I've been entrusted with ONE MORE trainee, again, as well as overseeing the Khongaen zone sisters. I always wonder how much more responsibility or what harder task I'll get at transfers.... each time it has been one step higher. :p So I feel like eventually there will be a limit.... right?
I love Sister Embley! She's here from... well, everywhere. China, England, Mexico.... I officially feel under-traveled, despite how many places I already have been. She spent periods of her childhood in each country. I can't say I would have wanted that. But hey, she'll definitely be serving in international before she's through. Haha!
This week was a week of miracles-- we have THREE new people firmly committed to baptismal dates for January. I cannot tell you how prepared and progressing these people are. Buki, Bas, and Party. Here's the thing: I think I decided that the people who are most ready for the message of the restoration are the people who are seeking more than what they have experienced as the traditions of their fathers. People who are looking to expand what they think they already know. Eager learners. These three people are like this: Buki is in a gifted school for english, excelling in the language. Bas has been admitted to the equivalent of Bangkok's Harvard. And Party is a well-paid doctor here in Roi Et. What do these people have in common? A drive for further knowledge. Isn't that what the gospel is about? A life-long progression to do just that?
Party came to all three hours of church despite getting off work after a hospital night shift. Buki was in tears saying how she knew it must be true in our last lesson because she felt the spirit so strong from a member's testimony. And Bas woke up with a dream in the middle of the night that he was supposed to be baptized.
I have no words to describe what I've seen. I feel like some of the prophets in the Book of Mormon that literally are told they cannot share any more because it is too incredible to comprehend. I will leave it at this: I have seen miracles of what the gospel can do for people's lives. I can at least express that it has done just that for mine.
This next bit is a heart-softener. We went Christmas Caroling at a hospital here in Roi Et with two elders. As Sis Embley and I got in there, all Sis Embley could say was, "Sister I think they're being tortured! Do you hear the screams?" I calmed her down and said sometimes that was normal for kids to sound like, but I also knew we were in a hospital, so.... anyway. Comforted her anyway. I took her into the children's building where the screams were coming from. We got there, and it was just one little girl, screaming pretty much for no reason. No poking or prodding or anything. So she sees us, still agitated for some reason. I realize she's not fully "there".
I open my mouth and sing, "Sleighs Bells Ring, are you listenin'...." and the little girl stops. She stare silently. "In the lane, snow is glistenin'.." And a smile formed on her face. But the 3rd song, she was laughing as happy as can be.
We sang some in Thai, some in English. The weary eyes of the stressed parents lit up in that damply lit hospital. And even the tiniest baby turned its head to look in our direction. The spirit of Christmas hit, and those who had fallen in spirit were rising in light. How amazing it was to see.
Right now we've made plans to train two young adult girls to be missionaries- so they're going to go find 2 friends that they can help us teach so we can show them how to be a missionary. They are so excited and had so many questions as to how to prepare.
And you know what? One of those girls was none other than Sister June-- the girl I sat down with 2 months ago and read Joseph Smith's words with her, where she told me she wanted to be as spiritually strong as she once was. If you remember that email I sent that week, you'll know how strong I felt God's love for her on that Sunday afternoon. She has attained what she wanted-- she made it back. She came back and now she's planning on being a missionary herself.
So this is my New Years Message to the world: Family, friends, and all.
Never give up on those you believe won't ever come back or won't ever feel what they once did about the gospel. This girl left for a year, believing she couldn't come back. Prayer changed her mind.
My dear and inspiring Uncle Rod, after 30 years of not being active in the church, this last Sunday was set apart in the bishopric in Nephi, Utah. These things do not just happen for our friends, or just for missionaries-- these things happen to us.
To anyone who may be lacking the faith to know that this is possible-- take it from someone who has seen it with her own eyes. It can happen for you.
2014 will be an amazing year. It will be what we make of it, and what Christ wishes to make of us. I know Christ was that child, born over 2000 years ago, and the Bible says Simeon blessed, saying: "This child is set for the fall and rising again of many."
This year, as we remember what the Christmas season is about, don't forget what the New Year can bring-- change, development of our attributes, and a firm faith that Christ can make this year everything we can't make of it ourselves. Miracles do happen. Seek Him out.
In 2014, Wise Men will Still Seek Him, even after the Christmas season is over.

Sister Painter 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Merry Christmas!!

Sis. Monica Painter was unable to email this week because she got to Skype with her family.  We feel so blessed.  It was a wonderful Christmas Eve present.  She did send pictures and descriptions of Christmas though, so enjoy. From, Her  Family
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!Sis. Packard with Sis. Painter before transfers.

Sis. Painter with her three trainees at a Bangkok meeting, Dec. 19th, 2013.

 Sis. Brooke Embley and Sis. Monica Painter phone photo.

The  Ward Christmas party went on for days with a manger and sheep and a lit up Ezekiel.

So for me, none of these things move me and crabs

Dear Family,

We get to skype on Christmas for an hour! :D So I will be getting on on my Christmas day, as in your Christmas Eve. :) I'm pretty stokeddddd! And transfers are this week, so I have no idea whether I'm moving or not. I probably am.

So the paint is almost off of my arms. There's about 4 more freckles.
As for strange things: here's a story for the books. We were getting a ride back home from Sis Waruni, and all of a sudden we hear a thump inside her quiet car. We're like, "What was that?" and Sis Packard swears something hit her foot. Then she screams and says: "THERE IS SOMETHING IN HERE." And before we know it, huge crawling things are next to us on our seats, and seemingly everywhere! So Sis Waruni goes: "Wait, is it a crab??"


So apparently she didn't have time to move them or put them anywhere, so she threw in like 4 crabs into her car just to wait to be moved, but forgot about them! So we're in this car, like I swear "Snakes on a Plane" or something, and these crabs are coming after us for being on their seats! So we're all screaming because they have nippy claws and they DO bite, so all 3 of us are both screaming and laughing, TRAPPED in this car win the darkness knowing that they're coming for us.
....So we ended up pulling over and eventually said crabs were either removed or put in the car compartment for safe keeping. Totally bizarre.
We also baked a cake on monday, stored it in our refridgerator and ate it consistently for 5 days...
This week was way cool-- we had 6 people come to church! YAY!! And in that group was Nang, the woman we've been working with for weeks and weeks (like 16 weeks, and even before that, other girls went and taught her.) She finally committed to a baptismal date, AND she went to the gospel class, for the first time! Miracle. She has been a tough one for a long time, it we were seriously just so baffled that after all this time, everything we had tried finally worked to help her see what she wanted. And there ya go! She's getting baptized! But I'm convinced, still, it had nothing to do with us, but with the amazing spirit. Had her husband never been bitten by a monkey, I KNOW she would not know what a prompting felt like!
So with the gospel class this sunday, I found out last minute that everyone that would usually be the teacher... was not at church. In fact, there wasn't even bread for the sacrament until someone ran to fetch some! Uh oh! So I'm praying way hard like, "NANG IS HERE FOR CLASS FOR THE FIRST TIME, PLEASE GIVE ME A TEACHER FOR THIS CLASS." We needed a miracle.
And so I go into the room for class, seemingly no teacher. Uh shoot. Pray some more. MIRACLE! Sis Jan, my dearest friend, waltzes in saying she got called to be the teacher. Oh thank goodness. It really was a miracle, because nobody had a clue what was going to happen and how awkward that would be! It turned out to be such a good lesson that Sis Bunlawm had to put her head in the door and stop the class because it has gone over to long. :p
They put up Christmas lights on the church, and it looks legit. They're getting ready for their Christmas WEEK party.... oh dear. It's supposed to bring in a ton of people, but unfortunately us missionaries will be moving part way through so it's really hard to help them with it or know who will be here!
I love the members here. And the Thai's in general. If I'm moved, that will be okay. But I will MISS these people. This area changed my whole mission.
So as a spiritual thought, I've experienced some hard things recently, but has made God's plan for me pretty clear. I'm just supposed to have my full heart in this right now. Life has taken some crazy turns along the way, and trials happen, but I read the words of the Prophet Paul this last week that touched me right to the heart:

"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."
 I will take the rest of my mission and do whatever God wants me to do with it. I will be whoever he wants me to be. I will say whatever it is I'm supposed to say. I gave up everything to be here right now, and I intend on taking that notion and putting everything I've got into where am I, where-ever I am.
Right now is not about me, and I can figure out school, work, life after the mission, AFTER the mission. Until then, I'm just optimistic about everything. I sure do love the gospel, and the atonement. Christ has taught me some doozies of amazing revelation in the last few weeks. I have been thrown adversity because the work of Thailand is about to TAKE OFF. We have a plan to have 200 baptisms in January. That's gonna happen. So with that, adversity comes. Opposition comes before every miraculous thing. Take for instance Joseph Smith's own experience.
So for me, none of these things move me.
I would not trade my mission for anything, for it has really taught me lessons that are more valuable than I can express. I love God. He is so good.
What an amazing season! Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good week.
Sister Painter
 Sis. Packard and I in a chicken coop.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

clown cars and Bow

My dear Family!!

Hey! This week I picked up your package from the office! :D So tempting! Thank you so much! I'm so excited for it.
This week was chilly! With no house heat or particularly warm showers, I'm dying in the mornings all bundled sometimes! So it goes to show I was not meant for Ukraine, Russia, or Armenia...
The week started off with a good fence painting. We did that and then suddenly realized, well, oops. Kinda got it all over ourselves. No big deal, it's washable. OH WAIT NO IT'S NOT. I still have paint all speckled all over my arms since last Monday evening. A full week. It turns out the paint wasn't even paint-- it was Anti-Rust paint-solution... stuff. So let it be known, I won't be rusty for a while....
And it made for a lot of "Painter" jokes throughout the week.
This is my favorite awkward moment of the whole week: HOW DO YOU ASK A DEAF WOMAN IF SHE IS PREGNANT??
Okay, so our investigator was looking a little plumpy yesterday at church. So what better to do then to try to figure out where this baby could have come from-- seeing as I don't know her family because we struggle in the communicating area. So we try a lot of sneaky ways of asking, none really work. So pretty much... yeah, I'm pretty sure we called her hardcore fat? I still don't even know if she's pregnant..... Note: Do not ask deaf women if they are pregnant if you cannot speak adequate sign language.
This week I took some travels to Bangkok and Kalasin, one for my MLC meeting and the other for an exchange. MLC was way inspiring-- we are so pumped for the future of the mission. And so then later when the meeting was over, President was like, "Oh just kidding, we're not done. We have an activity for the last visual lesson. But we'll need pants, socks, and an ice rink." ...... So we went ice skating for like 30 minutes. Hahahaha. Oh President. I love him and Sister Senior so much.
So the craziest thing. It gets to church time-- there's like 4 minutes until it starts... Uhm, where is everyone? We saw the Elders outside, praying together to find someone to bring into the church. Just as hope was about to be lost at the idea of having investigators there, or even members really, it was like the doors opened and tons of people flooded in! In fact, a member brought 9 KIDS OVER 8 to come learn! I was like, "Are you serious??" And then new investigators just burst in the doors every 3 minutes-- all friends of the youth, who had participated in our now very effective sports night. They ALL came! The church was filled with kids-- almost 11 on the front row, and then the back was filled with teenagers. Just... WHAT! It was nuts.
I even taught some of our investigators violin this week. Hahah, it was so cute. They were freaked out about performing 2 Christmas songs at their school because they just started learning a month ago... and so we taught them the gospel, AND violin. It was so precious. The first sounds were wretched and ear-busting. But by the end it sounded way good! I was like, "Did I just teach some Thai's... in Thai... to play violin? Where am I?"
It was a really cool experience though, because they called me and just told me they wanted to play for us first to show us what they had been working on. Bambi said: "I actually found out God was real through playing violin. I tried playing this so so many times and couldn't get it, but then I prayed that God would help me, and the very next try I got it all right! He must be real." Oh, heart warming. I could just squish her in a big hug.
Kalasin was really busy and fun-- we actually had a miraculous 15 minutes with a girl there named Bow. From what the sisters had heard, she was uninterested and not coming back, so they didn't ever try to go see her. But Sis Broeder was like, "I'll give Sis Painter a go at it while she's here." just to see if it was legit or not. So we get there and we had the most lifting and real sit down with this girl-- I have NO IDEA what everyone was talking about. She is fully ready to come back-- she knows her faith was waning and she so wanted it back. I felt God's love for her so much it was insane. As we were walking away, I could hardly remember what I had said, because it just felt like the words spilt out, not from me, but a direct message from a Heavenly Father that was pleading for that moment to help her come back. He was so invested in THAT MOMENT that I was about in tears telling her that all was not lost, she was not lost. The Holy Ghost was blazing out of us as we testified to her of her worth.
It was in that 15 minutes that I realized how involved God is with the finding of His lost lambs. Her home was in a dark alley outside the city. We came in the night, shined in our bike lights and called for her. She came out, confused but suddenly open with us knowing who we were. I will never forget how I felt when I realized this girl, in a hidden corner alley, was a daughter of a Supreme God, who LOVED HER with all His heart. He was so happy, just so happy, that she was found. It's a miracle that I even got to be a part of it.

I love you all. Life is good!!!!! Happy Christmas Season!!

Sister Painter


Monday, December 2, 2013

Mission Tour and the cold

The average of the mission is to get 40 baptisms in a month. This month, there were 109 BAPTISMS. This is a message from our President. Just wow.

Sis Painter
Oh, ps, our mission got those rad safety vests because we're totally awful at riding our bikes that apparently the asia area is enforcing us to wear them at night. It's so funny because people ask us, what the heck does Mormon mean? Oh it's good. These vests are power tools for speed!!!
Dear Family!
IT IS FREEZING OUT HERE. Our house doesn't have anything for "warming" so, this last week, it got way cold and now I'm officially a baby. To all my friends in Utah, just know that I'm gonna die and I'm gonna need a parka when I get back to the Y......

So this week we didn't really have an actual Thanksgiving thing at all except for some turkey and mashed potatoes for mission tour. That was nice! But then we were all fighting to stay away from the next 3 hours of it, so Elder Wilson of the 70 had us get up and stretch and do bizarre workouts to keep us alive.

Our zone actually did have an activity though on PDay, we had a turkey bowl!!!! So, just so it's clear, I don't play football. But hey, I tried. And failed miserably. But it was way hilarious when the sprinklers came on on us at the park and just as Elder Chelson was about to hike the ball as quarterback, the sprinkler would dart him right in the face because he was at a perfectly awkward height. An LOL and a half.

Mission tour was so cool. We're going to begin reading 1 Nephi chapter 1 with pretty much anyone we can find because it is obviously SO meant to be the first chapter of the Book of Mormon. You can all the pieces of the restoration in it. It's so insanely accurate to what happens when a new prophet is called in a new dispensation that we were all mind-blown!

And Elder and Sister Wilson were entirely inspired for us. They were so in tune it was unbelievable. They opened up a question and answer and basically answered any question all our little hearts had in two answers. It was nuts.

And what was way special, especially for me, was that we had a Sisters meeting too. And Sister Wilson laid down one of the most profound "Let's be Realistic" sermons I've ever heard. Like, I just tried to explain it and I couldn't, so I deleted it. It was very much about knowing that we are earthen vessels, made to crack and not be perfect. In this life, we won't be perfect. But through our cracks, the light within us can shine through to be seen. Those who try to cover up what they see as imperfections, using paint or whatever other means to hide, aren't letting themselves bask in the wonderous opportunity to be molded by the master potter.

So with this, let us all be real with ourselves and with God. Sometimes people are afraid of perfect people because they feel they will not be understood. Where-as, someone who has been weathered by the storms of life, will be a warm beacon of light across the rocky shore: that there's hope and peace to be found, because someone else has risen through it before.

Brightly Beams our Father's Mercy-- you may rescue, you may save.

Sister Painter

To everything wunway

Dear Family,

This last week, our whole zone thought it was Thanksgiving for the entire Thursday. Then at 10pm we realized... well, it wasn't. So Happy Thanksgiving, again!

This week was entirely up and down. On Monday we took a 3 hour drive round trip to visit Biw's parents with him to explain to them why Biw wanted to be baptized. With the Branch President and his wife, we traveled there and back with a successful: "I feel really good about him being in such a safe environment with these kind of principles." and his dad said if he could, he'd like to go learn for himself.

So the week goes on and I get a call that there is a funeral for a member's mom. I don't recognize the member's name, nor the mom's name, but I feel very impressed that I need to be there. I go, and I see the photo of the mom. I look to Sis Packard in disbelief. I know that lady. I've seen her picture before. I go through my mind and see the photo in our investigators binder. In that photo, she is sitting next to the one Thai I met in the MTC.

Her daughter.

My heart sunk as I thought to a note that this missionary had written me in the MTC: 'Go find my mom!' with an address and number. Now that I could READ it, I realized all the information was there, in Thai. I hadn't made the connection. I had called this sweet mom before but never knew the sister missionary's nickname.

I ended up playing the violin at her funeral. Kind of came full circle since meeting the daughter til then. But I felt at peace that I HAD called this woman several times, but she had been unavailabley sick the whole time. I could not beat myself up over it, because there really was nothing I could have done to change the circumstances. But I do wish I could have seen her before her passing to lend comfort.

So after that somewhat bizarre reunion, the next day we had a baptism. My brain went from deaths to rebirths.

And a miracle happened! A miracle literally happened. Biw told me, "Sister, my dad is not coming. He's just not. He won't."

As I played my musical number, just before the last speaker and the baptisms would occur, I saw the glass door open. A man came in. At a rest in the music, I recognized him: it was Biw's father, having traveled hours away to come, despite work and other business.

He sat on the front row and saw Biw baptized. What a glorious miracle watching his father's face soften.

And the other miracle? Get this. That night two investigators came: one boy we met at the market who we invited to come, and he brought a friend.

The next day, he walks in to the church with two NEW friends. And then 5 minutes later, one gets up and invites in the next friend. And 4 minutes after that? Two of them get up and lead in one last friend.

I sat on the row in the church, with 5 young souls sitting in between me and Sis Packard, with one more on the end: Jellybean.

The Lord prepares his children, and those who are prepared will lead in their friends, and all will sit down together and be edified.

Despite what happens, no matter what wind or waves, no matter how much we would like things to go a different way sometimes: God is constant. He is so good. Everything good can be found in Christ: everything we need to sustain ourselves can be found in a Christ-centered life. The next time we meet, you'll see me walking on that path towards Him. I want Him at my center. For in Him, there is peace. And for Him, there is promise.

That everything 'wunway' (chaotic and potentially heartaching) can be made "still". And we can see clearer than ever before, and walk on a path that we know is correct, even if we don't know just yet exactly what we're doing. I know it's possible. I've seen miracles, and they don't stop just because we don't see the angels.

In this case, for me, I watched a not-yet-understanding boy of 17 just bring 4 of his friends to feel what he felt, not knowing what it yet was, but he wanted to share it.

For in Him, the Savior, there is peace.

Sister Painter