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 

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