Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wake Up, Repeat.

Dear Family, Friends, and past followers of my mission life:

I'm home now.

I've considered what to do with my blog now that I have been home here for a transfer. The sisters who came in after me have now returned, and I've been rejecting the promptings to continue where I left off. The what comes next. The "can anyone throw me a bone?" lifestyle that some missionaries face upon returning home. The adjustment period.

The RM life.
Let's talk about it.

For me, I left the ground of Thailand on a plane with the idea that I had experienced what would be my greatest run. My record effort. My sprint to the finish.

Turns out, I had been running towards a beginning.

I would like to propose an idea, as I usually enjoy doing. I would like to promote the thought that a mission does not end at tag-removal. .....Why?

Because I know that my mission was not my "last stand."

Maybe when I'm in a hospital bed and the heart monitor is going "beep beep beep BEEEEP" and drops out, then maybe we can talk about final bearings of personal testimony. But as I once said upon leaving Roi-et, Thailand:

"90 years from now, I will be able track my testimony of tender, pure doctrines back to these moments of my mission. It will be tracked back to Plungjit road in RoiEt, Thailand. I will sit down with my picture books, journals, and scriptures and tell in a scruffy old woman's voice: "This little town changed my whole life."

And I'll know it just as well when I'm 90 as I did when I wore the tag."

So you can count on the fact that the heart monitor is not even a speck on my mortal map right now.

Let me give you a feel for how I spend my post-mission days:
6:30am I still wake up. Somehow.
8:00am BYU classes begin for me.
1:00pm Go to work.
5:00pm Eat Dinner.
6:00pm Hit the Library and try to get homework done. Oops, not done.
12:00am Return home from said library. Mosey up three flights of stairs. Textbooks, textbooks, "why you so heavy?"
12:30am Roommate prayer in Russian, Thai, English and Tagalog. Take turns each day.
1:00am I think I am crashing about now.
6:30am iPhone alarm goes off: REPEAT.

Being busy is good. (And that wasn't sarcastic.)

Let me tell you about my "work". The reason why I have energy to run an 18-hour day on repeat.

I work at the Missionary Training Center, speaking Thai with missionaries preparing to serve the Lord in the Thailand, Bangkok Mission.

So you could say, "my work" is not at all mine. It's "His."

I traded out my black name-tag for what has become my coveted white one. I go in to facilitate discussion and help them use their Thai, but in all reality, the missionaries teach me.

So upon reflection of the gratitude I feel for all I ever saw and what I now see, I decided to take a peek at this blog my mom kept updated for me with all my letters, and me, having never really observed closely who it was reaching.....

I see it had almost 15,000 page views, I read countless comments from people around the globe, and I find that this returned sister missionary still feels exactly the same way she did when she wrote it.

"The lullaby sung in heaven is ringing throughout the land: "We've heard this before." And it sounds like a trump. It waves like a banner. It shouts like a battle cry but enters the heart as a gentle invitation."

My mission won't be my last stand.

My daily life continues, this time as a returned missionary, and the gospel trump is the alarm.

Wake up, repeat.

-Monica Painter

Sister Painter will always have a nice ring to it.

The District. Halfway through.
Elder Stone, Purser, Bartschi, Daybell, Nelson, Bro. Kao, Elder Hall
Sister Tauteoli, Larson, McKnight and Bagley

Not all things change. People just add on babies.

Loving life at BYU near my little sister Makayla
as we leave the Odgen Temple Dedication

Mission Friends are Eternal Friends

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Return With Honor - My Last Letter

Dear Family and Friends.

Well, I think it's time to accept the fact that this is my last sermon. ... If you want to call it that.

First things first, my friends, I want you to know how much I have loved telling you stories throughout my mission. It has given me so much joy and helped me in recognizing just how good life is. Just how good my mission was. Just how good the Lord is.

Ew. Using past tense about my mission is going to be hard. Bear with me.

The Bible tells us that life has times and seasons (my 5th grade choir solo would also suggest the same, but in a falsetto that still rings in that elementary school's walls today.)

Ecclesiastes 3:
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:"

Let's talk about this chapter a little in relevance to finishing a mission.

 "A time to be born, and a time to die;" - There is a time to start your mission, and inevitably... as missionary slang would say, "a time to die".
"A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;" - This could be related to two things: 1. Transfers - You settle and you unsettle or 2. Harvesting from the white field. Whether or not we know it, we are planting seeds all the time. The time of the harvest, or the time to pluck up, is now.

 "A time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time of war, and a time of peace. " Missionary life. All the time. Roller-coastering.

" A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;" - Finding investigators, dropping investigators..

"A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;" With missionaries in retrospect, that one is kind of funny. Arms length, people.

But something interesting is what comes after all these "times and seasons" -- it's this line right here:

"What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?"

...Why? Why do we have all these up's and down's and back and forth's and changes and switches and transfers and opposites?

The answer lies a few verses down:
"And also that every man should enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God."

We work and we play and we live so that we may one day rest in the peace of knowing we did all we could.

I suppose you could say that I am feeling a mixture of all of these "times" and actually don't know where to categorize "a time to go home".

I feel peace in knowing that I gave it my all. I fought the good fight. My poor body could barely keep up with my spirit sometimes. ... Almost all the time. I feel like I've been camping for a year and a half, and as I said to my sweet mother: "Prepare some shampoo-- I may be taking the longest shower of my young life!"

Somehow there's something in me that is having a hard time understanding that I really don't get to buy sticky rice off the street anymore. Or get away with all the cultural rules I break. The "see you soon's" are a little surreal. It's all just a little.... bittersweet.

"In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.

Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny."

The same applies to missionary work. Regardless of a release, when you are once a missionary, you are always a missionary. The change that happened in me is indefinite and unending. Why? Because I have seen too much and felt too much to ever reject the fact that a life of member missionary work is essential.

If I were to write a book about my mission, it would include various chapters of life with different lessons learned. These would be some of the titles.
Prologue: "I am Ready Now"
1. Faith into Miracles
2. Reality of the Name Badge
3. Joseph Smith's Own Words
4. Charity Never Faileth: Church Organization
5. Wrong Roads
6. Rise
7. Above and Below the Water
8. Remember Lot's Wife
9. God's 4-Dimensional Chess
10. Choose to be Happy
11. Envision Optimism   
12."Led to a Better Land"
13. The Higher Law vs. the Law of Moses
14. Because of Him
15. The Rescue
16. Lost and Found: Cornelius
Epilogue: Moroni's Weakness in Writing

I want you to know that everything I have ever written home has been true. It's all been real. It really did happen to me.

And more than that, it really did change me. My mission changed everything. Down to the most minute habits.

So as my last sermon requires-- I better tell you my last story. We will call it "the Rescue". Or better yet, the "Dress-cue".

The story begins with a photo.

My companion Sister Jackson came on her mission with a picture of three thai members that were baptized by her friend in France. She came with the request to find them and make sure they were still okay. Two of those people, we came to learn, were living in Asoke-- a place we never dreamed we would land in.

I moved to Asoke for my last three weeks of my mission... for seemingly no reason. But when Sis Jackson pulled out this picture and told me the story, I knew we had one more big job.

We were going to find a lost Branch President.

On my mission, there have been several things I have come to learn, as you have seen from my book of life up there. But one that stands out among the rest is the one that I will be nurturing for the rest of my life: the Rescue.

We made plans to find this man, and when we brought the idea to our mission leader in our branch, he looked at us in total surprise. "You want to go find him?" As if nobody had ever wanted to take the task up.

Well, we did.

We got directions. We came to his wife's shop.... empty. Moved. Gone. We ask an old man passing if we know who we're looking for. Oddly enough, and with perfect timing, he does! We are led to a smaller tent, and there she was.

"Sisters! You're here!"

His wife let us in. She sat us down. It was slow warming but that evening charity did not fail. Before we knew it, she was telling us everything. Things people had tried to pry in the past unsuccessfully. She trusted us because we loved her, because the spirit said her comments were safe.

We simply listened. "If any man have an ear, let him hear." She said that all this man had needed was warmth from people who cared to come find him.

By the end of that visit, she was in tears. Determination was set. We were going to help each other to help her husband. Faith was once more built.

We left her that night and began our walk back. We both got the distinct prompting not 5 feet from the tent entrance as we left that we needed to return immediately and buy two of her dresses she was selling.

....But neither of us had ANY money.

We followed it just as immediately as the inspiration came and we ran to an ATM as fast as we could. As luck would have it, the month's money had just come in only hours before.

We ran back. It hadn't been more than 4 minutes, and almost all of her merchandise was being packed up. We saw the dresses-- the very last items to be taken off her rack on the wall.

"Wait! Excuse me---" we said.

The man taking down the dresses turned. It was the Branch President, having just arrived, not 2 minutes before.

His smile was glowing despite his confusion. His wife said, "See! They were just here!"

Sister Jackson and I introduced ourselves. It was all very warm. We were instant friends.

And then Sister Jackson brought out the picture. She said, "This is you."

He took the picture and his eyes began to well up with tears as he turned it over to see the message written on the back from the missionary who had baptized him 7 years before:

It had their names, the date, ending with: "Please find them. I love these people." - Elder Edwards.

Sister Jackson said, "I want you to have it."

He looked up with the most gratitude. "B-but, it's yours. ... Are you sure? Can I? Please?"

That night I learned what it meant to immediately follow promptings. That night I knew how precious each minute was in preparation for us to be there when we were. But most of all-- I learned how much God values his children and will do whatever He can, however loudly or subtlely to get there, to bring those children back to the follow.

To bring them back home. That is, afterall, our destination in the end.


I love you all. I will see you there.

Sister Painter

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Missionary - One Week Left

Dear Family and Friends,

To quote someone I met this week, "The story I am about to tell you is real."

Let's begin by saying that the events that occurred this week have been a sound and tender testimony to me that God is invested in his work, and more importantly and specifically, in his children.

I'm going to tell you the tale of three different people: Neang, Bom, and Faa.

Brother Neang is a tall and lanky fellow, about 40 years old, and when we moved in, he had just quit drinking. We taught him every day since we arrived and he would memorize the things we'd teach him and relate them off to us to ensure he remembered, seeing as his drinking and smoking had been a habit for over 30 years now, he works hard to retain information.

He announced that he would be quitting smoking in Elder's Quorum with a tender testimony. He quit that very day. Over a course of a week longer until his baptism, his radiance meekness and love for the members poured over. He memorized evemryone's names, and between his 4 teeth and sloppy accent, each hello and name was always said with such sincerity until everyone loved and supported him in his effort to be baptized.

He has been someone who has wanted baptism more than anything else in the world. His passing of his interview ended in a jumping jacks victory, his baptism held so sacred, his testimony as if from Nephi's own account.... a record of his birth onward: 'my mother and I sold bananas on the street corner and we were very poor....' for quite a long time until Elder Wilson texts me from the back, "How long can he go for?"
Anyway, his baptism ended in a beautiful "If you could hie to kolob" arrangement on the violin from Sis Jackson and Elder Wilson on the piano.
As I came up to greet him and give him my congratulations, I was shocked and overwhelmed to see him in absolute tears, holding his hands up in a "wai". Brother Mac had his arm around him while he was so tenderly taken by the spirit.

I have never seen a person so grateful in my entire life.
Seeing him in this way made countless members begin to cry until all present that day were convinced that nobody would forget the 'value' of being baptized. Because one unassuming lanky man showed us exactly what it should mean for us.

The next man is that 23 year old nurse I had told you about.

We spent the last week teaching him everything. And I mean everything. He was ready for everything. All the way through temples and missionary work. Let me just say-- teaching those things before baptism give people vision. I am so grateful the First Presidency has us teach that now. When they understand the temple and the whole picture, the Plan of Salvation becomes an "on earth" reality to prepare for that Celestial reward. We're teaching people to prepare to live in heaven, essentially.

Bom was that radiating light on the street. This sunday he will be a radiating white on the stand.
There are people out there that have been prepared for missionaries.
With that said, the last story I wish to tell is about the person who said the quote from the very beginning of this email. Her name is Faa.

On Saturday Sis Jackson and I found ourselves lost. Not necessarily lost on a map, but lost on where we should go. As we'd move and change places, we just had no feelings whatsoever, just that our minds were fogged over and where we were wasn't the right place. . .. at every place we went.

The day became frustrating as we finally decided that we'd just head back to the church for our lesson at 4pm. We traveled back and all through this walk I'm thinking back to two days before when an old man member outside the church who I've just barely seen for the first time over-zealously tells us how we should be inviting people. He said, "Just tell them exactly who you are! That God sent you to find them and that he loves them. Tell them that."

On this particular saturday afternoon in Asoke, the roads were practically bear because everyone went home or elsewhere for their day off. Not an ideal place to look for lots of people. But here we were making our way back to the church, talking to each person as they passed, getting waved off at each time.

We come to a girl in a over-sized black sweater who has headphones in. She doesn't hear what we've said to her, those earplugs are in so loud. She says, "what?"

We invite her and she looks at us again, feeling incredulous as to what she has just heard. "Wait, wait, what?" she says with wide eyes.

I remember what that old man outside the church said. It pops into my head. I say it.

"We're representatives of Jesus Christ. God sent us to find you. You must be someone very special because we're looked all day for you."

An appointment was scheduled immediately, and she walks back the way she came? She has no explanation as to why she was walking that way anyway.

It later hits 6:00pm on the nose and she arrives in the church. She finds us and we take her around. She tells us that she has been to a different church before and felt something more was to be found from Christianity, as she had never been certain about Buddhism.
Our lesson was filled with the spirit. More than I can say. She drank up every word and the truth of the restoration beamed brightly. She told us she knew it was all true.
As we sat on those chapel she confirmed her feelings about the Holy Ghost and that she had felt it before. ... very recently.

"What I'm about to tell you really happened, okay? You have to believe me." She begins, clearly overwhelmed by how surreal this day has been for her.
"Back when I went to that church long ago, it was because a boy had a dream that he needed to take me there. In my life I've suffered a lot of toothaches in the last 3 years. Two days ago I had a terrible toothache that had been lasting for a while. This time, I remembered going to that church and thinking that Jesus Christ loves us so much, and that he has the power to heal us. Without realizing it, I had began praying and I told God, if you heal me I will change my religion.

The next day she was fully normal. No problem whatsoever. She said, "I had no reason to believe it was God who did it, but... I knew it was him. I knew it."

"Today you stopped me on the street and told me you were looking for me. That God sent you. I believe you."
I have never been so sure of God's hand in his work, and the authority and reality of a calling to be a missionary.

It is as real as the name-tag you see plainly on our chest.
Sister Painter


Monday, July 21, 2014

"The Keepers" on red ground

Dear Family and Friends,

I officially now live a "Devil Wears Prada" life.

Let's back up and explain this. On Monday when I wrote last I was living life as normal out in the farm lands eating my sticky rice and pork on a stick.

Oh, well, that has certainly since changed.
There was a mini moves transfer and naturally and unexpectedly, according to "the unorthodox workings of the spirit", Sister Jackson and I moved together to an area that what was once known as "the beast".
I now live in Asoke, Bangkok.
If you want to map that, it's called "Din Daeng". Din Daeng literally means, "Red Ground." My days are now filled with zooming taxi's, light-rails, foreigners, and thousands and thousands of people swarming the streets. Not only this, I live a block from my mission office. So every day as I pass our beautiful lot I think to myself, "I sweep these streets because President Hinckley promised us a temple on that piece of grass."

And then we fly. We teleport from here to there to picking up this and that, all the while looking people in the eyes on the streets to find who we're missing. Over a course of a couple of hours, you probably talk to over 1000 people. In that sift, you find those who are ready.

So as we finished out inviting one day on the streets, we were coming back to get some food- oddly enough harder to find than anything else in Bangkok. But just as I crossed the street, right outside that plot of land that will one be the temple, was a sharp looking young man with his headphones in. I glance at him, then Sis Jackson moving towards what would finally be a meal on the side of the road, and before I know what has happened I have stepped right in front of him and I am showing him a baptismal card.
He pulls out his headphones instantaneously and I look him in the eyes. He is, of course, the last person I would talk to, as so many missionary stories go. And I am grateful that I followed the prompting almost unknowingly.

His name is Bawm. He is a nurse at a prestigious hospital here in Bangkok. He has no Word of Wisdom problems whatsoever, and his sister lives in Salt Lake City.

And his light shined on that Bangkok street brighter than any billboard that day.

I think we never really know what is in store for us on this ride of life. I can certainly say that at the beginning of my mission, at the very start, I could have never looked ahead and seen what I have or prophesied anything I have experienced. As a new missionary you are excited, nervous, not sure what to expect, lots of questions on the mind, optimistic, and ready to go.

This week I gave my bike away. I gave it to a Thai Returned Missionary named Elder Wilamas (or now, Brother Ice.) He is the Branch Mission Leader in Ubon. The night we came down to Bangkok, we looked over all our bags, bikes and things. We quickly realized two sister missionaries arriving in Bangkok in the middle of the night with all this stuff was not going to happen smoothly.

So Brother Ice, one of my dearest friends on my mission, bought a ticket and hopped aboard. My 33rd and last all-night bus ride, was accompanied by someone who has given everything for the gospel. He came in whatever he was wearing and dropped all of his plans with friends and for starting a job. He saw a need and he came to the rescue.

I love the thai people. I love this country with all my heart. I have seen people change their lives and give everything to be true disciples of Christ.

This week I so tenderly saw that in the bright eyes of the five new Thai missionaries from all over Thailand that just got back from the Phillipines MTC. It is hard to describe the feeling you get around brand new missionaries. I have never seen so much faith, so many eager questions, as I did with these sweet Thai members of the church that had newly put-on nametags. One of those new elders was someone my MTC companion had baptized, here one year later as a missionary.

As I was around them I felt a sincere and real difference between when I had once taught with them as ordinary members of the church here, and when I picked them up from the office to take them home with us as new missionaries. Their anticipation and enthusiasm and questions were over-flowing and the spirit that surrounded them was undeniable.

And so, with the enthusiasm and optimism of a brand new missionary, I embark my last three weeks in this land that I love. We're hitting the ground running. Here in Din Daeng the dirt may be "red", but it can be white as snow with the gift of the gospel.

"The field is white already to harvest."
The field has been white where ever I have been. Of that, I have never doubted.
But here in Asoke there is more than just harvesting to do. There are a lot of recent converts here. More than anywhere in the country.

The beloved prophet who dedicated this land and that plot for the temple was the same man who said that if we baptize and do not hold on to the fruits of our labor, then our labor is pointless.

So we have become "keepers". Keepers of light. Keepers of souls. And rescuers and as well finders.

  1. Brightly beams our Father's mercy
    From his lighthouse evermore,
    But to us he gives the keeping
    Of the lights along the shore.
  2. "You may rescue, you may save."
  3. Love,
  4. Sister Painter


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rise and Shine

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, I asked President Senior was I should write about this week, and he suggested that I write and say that I was, "resigned to my hungarian-child crib with illness." .... Thank you President. Inspiring.

But it's true, I was.
I got way sick, and that got really depressing after a while of seeing little change.

But then I decided to get up.

I decided that I was done feeling sorry for myself. My days were up to me, and I didn't have to be 'resigned' to anything, especially feeling sad.

I want to talk today to anyone who feels that they are doomed to what "destiny" has in line for them. Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, anybody, regardless of circumstance, can be changed, lifted, and set running again.

My friends, we all fall down.
We all get scrapes. Heck, some of us break spiritual arms, so to speak.

But the beauty of the gospel is that broken things can be mended. "Broken minds can be mended as easy as broken bones." -Elder Holland. If you remember back to the Bible story of Christ healing the man with palsy, you'll note that He did it to show that he could heal physically as well as spiritually. For, as He said, "Which is easier?"

Now let me ask you a question. Which is easier, a quick mend or a transformation? A band-aid on a cut, or a shape-shift to a new creature?

But even better than this, even better than a mend, is a transform.
Better than broken pots glued together is a collection of the pieces thrown in a furnace, reheated as clay, and reformed as a new being.

The atonement both has the power and ability to both heal us, and enable us.

Anyone who has ever used it knows what that power entails. It's not just for sinners, it's for anyone who wants to know the truth.

My friends, the atonement has the power to convert you.

When you feel sad, that is never the moment to give up on your righteous desires. That is never the moment to stop going to church, or seminary, or institute. When you are sick, you go see a doctor.

Our spiritual doctor is the Lord Jesus Christ, and his atonement is the medicine and remedy for any infirmity.

This last week I got to see the peak of what would become one of my most precious mission stories. The last couple of months, I watched a brother who was convinced he was going to go inactive on his return home from his trip. He came to Thailand on a vacation with his mom and sister "kicking and screaming".

He slowly opened up to some activities with the branch, and then began helping the missionaries teach. He started finding his own investigators with them on the street. Before we knew it, he had a planner, a bike, and was riding with the Elders everywhere. Yesterday he baptized a man he taught.

I saw the change in this young 17-year old. And better yet, he saw the change in himself. He began to call the mother he once fought with, "แม่ที่รัก" (or my beloved mom) in her native language, which brought her to tears of joy.

Watching the atonement heal investigators was the faith-instilled medicine for him. 'If it could happen for them, why not me?'

I know that the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true and living church of the Savior.

He is our Savior because His atonement is real. You could say, "I believe it because I've seen it." Not with my eyes, but with a discerning heart. I've seen it happen to others. I saw it with this sweet brother. And even more than that, I've seen it happen to me.

It can happen for you.

So all who feel bedridden, whether spiritually or otherwise;

...rise and shine.

Sister Painter

Finding the 4000

Dear Family, Friends, and... well, whoever you are!

We really need to talk. I have a story to tell.

So we remember the story of Jesus Christ "feeding the 5000", right? Today I'm going to tell the story of the beginning of a journey.

I'll call this embarkment, "Finding the 4000".

I took my 31st overnight bus ride into the street lights and traffic sign local of Asoke, Bangkok. What that means is that I have spent over one month of my mission sleeping on a bus from 10pm to 6am.

....Moving on.

So we arrived at our Mission Leadership Council meeting and by the end President had laid out a vision. We have baptized so many, and last year about 2500 people would come each Sunday across Thailand. After the take-off and the hastening, 3500 people.

"By the end of this very month," he concluded, "the Lord God wants 4000 people attending church each week across Thailand. He can do it, but that's not all. That is very different than the statement, He will do it. .. And he will."

We arrived home filled with faith and desire to help our zone catch the vision placed in our hearts. 500 more people in 4 weeks? Where on earth are we going to find 500 more people? That would mean that we need to baptize the same or more AND rescue those who have fallen at the side of the road.

The following Saturday would become a last opposition experience for me, where nobody I called gave me a definite yes on church. By the looks of things on Saturday evening, the odds weren't in our favor.

But we didn't ask for luck. We prayed in faith.

If there is one lesson that I have learned in its absolutely clarity on my mission, it is that faith precedes the miracle.

So on the evening of July 5th, that Saturday night, we set up the chairs in the chapel with the Elders.

Before we knew it, we had filled the room with 150 chairs.

Members came in and out watching us and helping, saying, "Why do you keep putting out more?" knowing that last week there was a total on 89 people in that room.

But the 150 chairs remained. Who would fill them? No idea. But we knew that room would be filled.

Beginning of the month, July 6th-- Fast and Testimony Sunday morning. The air crisp, the breeze slightly cool. The doors of the church stayed open as if welcoming arms.

And oh, did it welcome.

I am a witness that "faith precedes the miracle."

Families I had not seen my entire service spent in Ubon appeared as if from the dust came back like they'd be coming the last ten years. Faces I'd seen in my area book were standing right in front of me. I knew their names! Where had they been?

From my translation table in the back with my microphone and headsets, I looked out across what would appear to be an ocean of people. I saw the room full. Members, old and new, investigators, children, a newborn blessed baby, 2-baptismal candidates, a girl waiting for the Holy Ghost confirmation, families since lost, families newly baptized, families just barely found....

...and two orange-robed Buddhist monks.

That's right. You heard me.

A Phillipino man arrived early, saying: "Two months ago I met two sister missionaries at a market, they invited me." .... Two months ago. The miraculous thing? I saw as I walked passed something that caught my eye... his hymn book! What the...? He's not an investigator! He's a member! Since he was 14! He had lived in Thailand for 3 years and had no idea there was a church here.

Oddly enough, he had received a prompting this week that it was his time to go back to church, and he promised himself he would.

I testify that God plays 4-dimensional chess.

The ocean of 148 souls I looked over differed in every stage of their lives, whether young in age or young in faith, or neither. I mean, there is the oldest woman I've ever seen here who has out-lived us all on both aspects.

But amongst all these I felt stood angels on our left and on our right.

A higher power had brought these people here, not us. It was the faith.

We simply set out the chairs.


Sister Painter
(my companion Sis. Jackson)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sprint Point

Dear Family and Friends,

Announcement #1: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups have hit the shelves of 7-11 for the first time across Ubon.

Announcement #2: I ran out of my missionary fund a few days early because of Announcement #1.

Anyway, this week it has been brought to my attention (with a fairly loud voice) I want to talk about something I call the จุดวิ่ง -- "The Point Where you Start Running" or in more eloquent terms:

 My "Sprint Point."

Before every race comes training. That training isn't a cake walk. In fact, it's a coaching of yourself into being able to keep up with the pack until you can run as fast as the others.

But this is no ordinary race amongst other runners. This is a race against yourself. 

I've got six weeks left towards a finish line that creeps ever closer- and on this last thursday, the last transfer meeting, the signal came, a flag lowered, and a gun shot went off- it's time to sprint.

A sprint point towards a third stake.

Ubon has been stacked with two additional elders, Sis Jackson was called as my Sister Training Leader companion, and our other districts were given some of the most prime missionaries to build and strengthen. When President came last week, he sat down to dinner with us and asked about opening another area to feed into Ubon. He did just that.

On my mission, I have seen so much.
I have witnessed miracles. I have seen, heard and been a part of more than the keyboard is capable of typing out.

But like Elder Packer, from his last conference talk called, "The Witness". He said: "Far from thinking I was someone special, I thought that if such a thing came to me, that it could come to anyone. I still believe that."

I honestly and full-heartedly believe that before any righteous endevour, there will always without fail be some sort of opposition to try to "last minute" end that great thing before it starts. That's one of the most profound lessons we learn from Joseph Smith's experience, and one I've seen with almost every investigator on a Saturday night before that Sunday they'd be baptized.

So, we baptized a girl named Ame yesterday. I found her within the hour she was at a hospital donating blood. The invitiation was smooth, accepted, and by the end, I hugged her I felt like she was that close to me. I loved her instantly. 10 days later after our first meeting, she was baptized. On Saturday evening, she felt some last minute questions. Last minute uncertainty. She prayed for last minute comfort. "Is this all true?"

Yesterday after watching the Joseph Smith movie with her after her baptism, she came out and said, "I prayed, and... I got it. I got my answer. You might not believe this, and I might not either, but it happened. In one year, I probably have a dream 2 or 3 times and that's it. But after praying and falling asleep-- or at least in the period between sleeping and wakefulness, I had a dream. It was white, it was beautiful, it told it I was doing the right thing. I felt in my heart I knew it was true. ... And that's what happened to me last night."

I honestly believe her. Each of us are no more special than someone else. We're all entitled to receiving "a witness".

And so I testify again, that any missionary, investigator, new convert, or old-time member, regardless of where you may be, can receive the same. "I still believe that."

I sprint towards a temple. Six weeks towards a stake. Three stakes towards a temple.

"So run, that ye may obtain." -1 Corinthians

Thank you to all the people across the world that have sent me mail to help me run. I cannot express my gratitude enough. The letters that begin, "You don't know me, but...." are some of my most prized.

Thank you. Because of you, I run faster even still.


Monday, June 23, 2014

The Twenty and Second Year

Dear Family and Friends,

I turned 22 years old this week. That was a little unreal.

Especially when they brought out the "23 yrs old" cake and my eye twitched and luckily it was a mistake and NOT real life.

So I'm going to take you back in time just a tiny bit with my journal. Back when I wrote this:

"I'm 21 years old- this is my only year to be a missionary. I don't want to waste a single moment. This is the time! And I can make it just as this of Moroni: "Behold, there never was a happier time among the people, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni, yea, even at this time, in the twenty and first year." I was promised success before I came, so I look forward to what my 21st year entails!"

And then a month ago:

"I remember writing about how my 21st year of life would be the most memorable- turns out that was an absolute understatement. I saw more, did more, and believed more than I ever have."

This week I saw what it looks like to be transformed by the gospel through Brother Game. He quit smoking, drinking, wearing idol necklaces, long hair in a ponytail, the works, to be a member of this church. I saw him yesterday in his clean shirt and neatly done conservative hair and thought to myself, "I didn't tell him to do that."

It reminds me of the book "Our Search for Happiness" by Elder Ballard. He said that he met a man that had a life that needed to be cleaned up in every way. Each day they visited, he noticed something had changed. A clean apartment, cut his hair, stopped drinking... why? "Just thought it was the right thing to do."

This week my "younger brother never given to me in a normal American family situation" got baptized. AKA my Cornelius.

I have no pretty words to be able to describe what I saw, but it was indeed the best birthday present I have ever received to see someone I love so dearly get baptized. I'm sure all of you know who Joe is from Roi-et if you've ever read my emails before. Dome was my second promised brother.

And yesterday I saw him go into the waters of baptism, come out, and later find out he said to Elder Astle as they came back into the sacrament room after changing, "Why do I feel so different? I want to wear white every day."

He got up to bear his testimony and said, "I came to this point through my own willingness and my own faith in God. I know this is a good change for me, and will lead me to happiness. I am so happy I was baptized on this day."

And you know what? I can echo him.

"Behold, there never was a happier time among the people, since the days of [the twenty and first year], than in the days of [Sister Painter], yea, even at this time, in the twenty and second year."

It was, a happy birthday indeed.


Sister Painter

Monday, June 16, 2014


Dear Family, Friends.... Facebook onlookers I've never met? Sure.
This week will go down in the history of my books as the rollercoaster of highest highs and lowest lows. As President says, "The funnest part of a rollercoaster is going down!" .... Not in particularly true for this comparison of successes and defeats, but in the Lord's work, I have yet to truly lose
I witnessed Thailand get it's 2nd stake ever in history.
My last area was just created into a stake. The Donmueang branch is now the Donmueang Ward in the Bangkok North Stake.


I want to talk today about the cost versus return of being a missionary. When I say cost, I'm not talking about dollars or even about time. I'm talking about giving of yourself.

A mission is a personal investment. It's not a game of cost vs. benefits but rather a journey of personal sacrifice vs. ultimate reward-- not only for you, but for all those who benefited from your sacrifice.
So I'm going to start off by telling a story. You know I love stories.
For this particular story, I'll have to go back in time to when I spent 9 weeks in Bangkok. (Mind you, this is called the Thailand Bangkok mission, and as you may recall, I've only ever entered a Bangkok area that one time for 9 weeks.) While I served in Donmueang, the presiding bishop of the church Bishop Stevenson arrived and gave us a sermon that left my heart totally expectant that the blessings of my mission that I was promised would absolutely come to pass.

In past letters, as you may recall, I wrote about "Finding my Cornelius." What that means, for all of you just tuning in, is this, and I quote myself:

"I say that, because Peter was called out to go find a certain man who beckoned to him from a land far away, and this man was a Greek. His name was Cornelius, a centurion at Caesarea. The baptism of Cornelius marked the way for the gospel to be preached to the Gentiles. Peter had a dream, and was immediately there-after called upon by this man Cornelius. He straight-way went out to find him, and Cornelius was baptized that very day.

My whole mission, I have had several of these shining finds. But during my time in Bangkok, I was burning inside, feeling I was not yet done. Somewhere afar, I felt a call.

I have walked into the land of my Cornelius."

I said that in April, and I have been searching ever since for that person.

And then I met that boy that I mentioned last week. A boy that was "hungry". His name is Dome. Last week, as you remember, he told us in that Tuesday lesson that he didn't want to get baptized because he knew he couldn't quit smoking. The next day he woke up without any desire to smoke and has never smoked since.

Now it's the next Tuesday and President Senior and Sister Senior themselves are here in Ubon. Dome is waiting for his appointment right after a way fun English class we had had at the church that evening. No rush, no hurry. He moseys around until we're ready for him.

What's this? Sister Senior wants to help us teach him?
By all means.

So here we are, in a circle with us two missionaries, my mission president's wife, and two recent converts. He lays out his concerns and says that he's not ready but he believes in God with all confidence... just does not believe in himself.

In this lesson, the spirit runs strong, bright and powerful. It is so strong that Sister Senior testifies in english, and by the power and translative native of the Holy Ghost, Dome understands everything she says and responds in english back without even noticing a change. He comes to himself and realizes this has just happened and his smile is disbelieving.

The spirit was so strong that you could literally reach out and touch it in the air. It was tangible. It was real. It testified of the truthfulness of what we were saying.

He concluded that day that he needed just a tiny bit more time. He said, "Can I be baptized next month?" to which we told him we would do all we could to get him ready.

We close with a prayer and as we are leaving the room, Sister Film (a sweet girl who was just baptized  and confirmed the week before) touches Sister Jackson's arm and then, in an unsuccessful effort to control her emotion, begins to weep into her shoulder. I turn and see this scene and ask what on earth could be wrong!

After subsequent tear wiping and still no control, she explains that she doesn't know why. She just felt so good.

It was a defining moment in her conversion to the gospel. The Holy Ghost had testified not only to this young man Brother Dome, but to this recent convert. And as President James E. Faust once said, "The Holy Ghost bears witness of the truth and impresses upon the soul the reality of God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ so deeply that no earthly power or authority [could] separate [her] from that knowledge.”

Dome took his conversion into his own hands and we spent each night studying the scriptures for himself doubled with prayer. He testified to us that he knew it was true.

It turns out, that as Preach My Gospel has always taught, this principle is correct: "… The only problem the objector has to resolve for himself is whether the Book of Mormon is true." And everything else will be proven true by it's evidence.

It was enough for him. And it has become everything to him.

Yesterday at church he announced in priesthood that he would be baptized next Sunday. Not in 2-3 months, not next month, but next week.

The spirit's converting power is the true teacher.

On Sunday he asked Sister Film and I how much it would cost for him to be a missionary.

Read that statement again until you understand it. Now you know what the cost and reward has been for me.

In this land, Cornelius was found.

Sister Painter
Move to:   

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"I'm hungry!"

Dear Family and Friends,

This week can only be described as miraculous. I just love, love, love the people we're teaching because they are elect. Their spirits are just elect.

Gade was baptized yesterday after first teaching her last week on a friday. AKA, that baptism took place within 9 days of our first sit-down lesson. Just try to convince me that this "hastening" of the work isn't real. D&C 88 says it perfectly, and I have witnessed it: "I will hasten my work in it's time."
Let me just tell you a story about a boy named Dome.

He's 19 years ago, very quiet, isn't an eloquent speaker, but knows when something is sacred. His confidence isn't high and his grades aren't supreme. He thinks hard about what he's taught but it doesn't make a lot of sense. This week on a tuesday evening, we sat down for a second lesson. He came into the lesson telling us, "I'm not ready and don't know if I want to change my religion. And besides that, I can't stop smoking, that's for sure. It's impossible." We taught the restoration of the gospel and testified with all our hearts and many scriptures that God could help him quit smoking and be a witness to him that this was all true, what we had taught.

By the end, I asked, "How do you feel right now?" because the spirit was so strong. In his sincerity but misunderstanding, he replied, "I'm hungry." I laughed and sort of rolled my eyes and we testified one more time and committed him to pray that night about all of it and to read in that Book of Mormon he's got.

I look back and think to myself, knowing what I do about Dome today, that it was I that misunderstood his answer.

Yesterday, we had another sit down lesson, requested by him. He came up to me after his second day at church and seeing a baptism and said, "Sister, I want to know the commandments so I can know where I stand and what I need to do." This time I was on splits and it was just Sister Film and I teaching him. She had been with us that tuesday night that I had described to my district leader as, "A bad lesson" because of how I thought he had taken the message.

I sat with him yesterday. Found out he had been praying and reading, he added his own name to the Book of Mormon chart and as he said the opening prayer, his prayer of "Help the weather to not be hot- Amen" had expanded and grown to a very deep soul-search. Not eloquent or decorated, but straight-forward, "Is this true what they're telling me?"

He told us in that lesson that he knew God was real. He knew for himself. He told us that that Tuesday evening he smoked the rest of his cigarettes that he had in his possession, and prayed before he went to sleep that God would help him quit.

Dome woke up that next morning, and in his words, "Usually, I would smoke 20 sticks in a day. Since last time I went to church, I had cut it to 10 sticks a day. But that Wednesday morning, I woke up, and when I would usually light up, I woke up to find I didn't want to smoke."

"Sister, I haven't smoked for 5 days. Since that day you made me pray, I haven't smoked a single cigarette."

I realize now that despite him answering my spiritual question with, "I'm hungry", it was actually a defining answer. His spirit was hungry.

This unlearned boy, raised in an school of poor-test-takers and those that have simply been raised in a environment of low-opportunity, has found a safe haven within the church. He shows up to church clean, tidy, necktie, white shirt. He knows the influences there are only good.

He comes to church.... hungry.

Sister Painter
 I went to an elephant farm and my new favorite animal is big, wrinkly, and squishy!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! Presents from my family which I chose myself.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Familiar Voice

Oh dear Family and Friends,

Well, I don't know how it happened, but it's June?

In the words of President Senior to me on Wednesday: "The time has passed so quickly. .... I don't know that I like it."

And so we come into the month of "จุ่ม" (The Month of Jume). What does that mean? To dip. It's the word you use to explain how a baptism is done. You get dipped in the water. As in, this is the month in which all the elect are going to be baptized.

I just went to one of my last leadership meetings in Bangkok this last week. I can't say my eyes were dry. President took the time to simply train us as leaders. In doing so, there was a lot of recollection of my mission. He especially spoke about working with "the one". Even when teaching a group, all you're really doing is teaching a collection of "one's". That's how the spirit works.

I've spent a lot of time teaching "one's." I've spent a lot of time learning from "one's." But most of all, at one time or another, I was "the one". So I search for them as desperately as I was looked after. If we were all to take our lives into account and "come to ourselves" as the prodigal son once did, I think we would have much gratitude for what has come to pass in our lives because someone else looked for a need and filled it.

Isn't that the meaning of being Christian?

There will always be a one in the ninety-and-nine. Even if finding them requires hard work in blazing temperatures of life. .... Or in reality, directly from the sun in degrees Celsius. This week could be described like this: "Sometimes you gotta put yourself in a cold room with an IV in your arm." -Me at the nearest 7-Eleven haven during the afternoon. Or as Elder Wilson once said, "We wrote in all of our back-up plans as, "Go to the church and drink water."

Last night while I was out inviting at a weekend market, a woman walked passed with an evident "no". Then turned on her heels as if the spirit slapped her around. She then said, "I've waited to go to church for 8 years and I have no idea why I've put it off." She later passed again after our first interaction, saying, "Okay. I have to know. Why are you trying so hard to find names?"

The way she said that took me off-guard. She didn't say, "Why are you looking for people to teach" or "why are you looking for phone numbers"? But she said, NAMES. I still have no idea why she said it the way she did, but it was thought-provoking to me and I answered her bearing my testimony  of what the gospel does for someone: more than teaching to be a good person, but in the end actually says us from sin, death, and gives us the ability to go back to Heaven to live with our loving Heavenly Father.

She said, "I'm glad I asked, or I would've asked myself for a long time."

So shortly after this experience I was saying something to Sis Jackson in english when a young man turned around like he recognized my voice and knew me. I turned to him and spoke to him in thai, asking him if he wanted to be baptized. He was immediately receptive. We're seeing him tomorrow at 3pm. I said, "Just 20 minutes of your time." to which he replied, "You can have a whole hour."

He walked away and I had a lull in people coming on my side. I thought to myself how weird it was that he heard my voice and turned directly around, having no idea what I was saying in English. A prompting came to my mind that I had prayed on my bike beforehand for prepared people to be put in my path. That boy walked directly in between us two sisters going upstream through the crowd with his friend. He turned because he knew my voice.
"And the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers." -John 10:1-18

"Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." - D&C 1:38

The reality of a missionary call is great. Again, I urge all who ever considered to consider again.

Your voice may just be the familiar one to many "one's."

Sister Painter