Monday, March 31, 2014

2 types of Askers

Dear Family!

Thailand made it onto the Women's Conference video!! Did you see it? Go back and watch. It has our youth out in front of my church, and my relief society (I was standing behind the camera when they filmed it!)
"Thailand looks so hectic, is it ever stressful with how crowded it is?"
A good question. Well, sometimes it is! But when you're as tall as I am comparatively, you kinda just look over heads.... So, it's pretty spacious sometimes. There are some abnormally tall Thai's, but over all, these are my tiny people. They're so cute. :)

I have two thoughts for you today.

Let's talk about "Ask and ye shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened." What happens when we don't receive what we've asked for or that door didn't open? Did something go wrong? Did we ask amiss? Or did we go about asking in the wrong way? 
I'd like to make a comparison between two types of askers.

Why does it seem like doors to answers are sometimes bolted up? I think there's a difference between the people knocking. The first of which is a man who approaches the door with what he believes to be the keys. When his confidence (at its most arrogant) approaches the door, he is perplexed and unmoving by the idea that his key is not unlocking the door. He is positive that there is no need to knock because it is his right, and his door, and everything inside already belongs to him as heir anyway, so this key of his will no-doubt, unlock this door for his own benefit, on his time-table, right... this... moment.
But then it doesn't.
The second man comes to the door with a humble heart, wishing to ask of the man behind the door (the true owner of the estate) to consider his entrance. He knocks, the door's lock is unbolted from the inside, and the merciful master opens the door, sees the humble beggar's need, and fills it.

The difference was the approach: Genuinity and Humbleness to ask.
The first man felt he had "all" already, the estate was his to be claimed, but he was denied entrance in his pride.
"Save they shall cast these things away [being puffed up, rich, wise, and supposedly learned] and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, He will not open unto them." (2 Ne 9:42)

This week I was sitting in sacrament meeting and before I knew it, I heard my name over the pulpit that I was going to be sharing my testimony! I then look over and see Elder Khanakham (President's right hand man) smiling really bright and expectantly. I realized I was standing up and that walk to the pulpit was like this: imagine a blank white wall.

I lift the microphone, introduce myself, and, well, bear my testimony. I found myself sharing what I want to share as a closing with you today.

This last week, I rode passed that same man who had thrown the cigarette down the canal. I want you to know that he came for that appointment but he didn't see us and left again. So now it had been almost 2 weeks since I had talked with him. So a few days ago I found myself riding down that same road. There he was.

I stopped. Something was different.

He had shaved. His face and feet were clean. He had cut his hair. He didn't smell.
I sat next to him and asked, "How have you been? How is the smoking coming?"

He says: "I quit."
"You quit?"
"I quit. For more than 10 days now."
"...You quit."
"I quit. It was easy."

It was easy. And all it took was a single statement: "There is nothing God can't do."

I don't know where this one-armed man will go from here, but I don't plan on giving up easily on him. The fruits of repentance is change, and I've seen him "clean up his act" in more ways than one.

When I had finished speaking and closed my testimony, I felt immense gratitude for the opportunity to share. It's like God knew I wanted to and threw out the opportunity while I stared blankly at first, then found myself leaping for the stage.

When you become a witness to the truth-- you never can reject nor hold in what you know to be true.

If you want doors opened to you, if you want to be a witness that there is indeed a God behind the door, I challenge you to seek and knock for yourself.

The windows of heaven will be opened.

Sister Painter


Monday, March 24, 2014

The White Rabbit and rain

Dear Family & Friends,

I have to tell you something. It rained here in Bangkok! As in, it poured! And you know what happened then? It stank like a un-maintained elephant farm. We literally were wading (our weather-resistent crocs need Lysol for sure) in about a foot and a half of... I don't know what! But regardless, the roads a lot less muddy.
So that day I was on a switch-off with Sis Stewart, and we ran for cover in the Central mall after being locked outside the church gate (I'd love my own set of keys now.) And wouldn't you know it! It's BABY ANIMAL DAY at the Central. Emus, Iguanas, owls, you name it. Some guy got Sis Stewart to put her finger out for a bird. She held it, I took a picture. "Aha! 20 baht sucker!" ... What! He moves out of the way of his sign. Photos, 20 baht. Oh, you got me there. So he's like, "Well, you already paid, you may as well take one on the actual chair with the other birds." So Sis. Stewart has me hold the bird this time. "This is gonna be another 20 baht because it's a different person." I look at him and go, "I don't think so!" And thus, we have pictures of only Sis Stewart with the cool birds. He was a gooooood sneaky one, that guy! And all the sheep in the fencing had bandanas and hats.

The rest of the week was a lot of finding, making appointments, and then panicking when no female members could come. We called over 30 people one day! And our midget investigator has taken us to the dropping point over questions like, "Who's the church's electrician??" as if it truly were so important to know. Two hours later, Sis. Wolf says, "So... yeah... if you teach on Wednesdays at 11am again, I don't think I'll be free....." ... Yeah, I get the hint.

Let's talk about a miracle.

There's a young man in our branch newly baptized about two months ago. His name is Rad. Turns out, dad, he knows what a Hemi motor is, a Roadrunner 69, and all other names that translate straight over from english to Thai. It's funny how my childhood prepared me for that conversation.

He is one of the most amazing converts I've ever met. He has no flaws! .... Except one thing. He is almost an hour late to everything, always. He literally just has no sense of time management, which is just such a funny thing. So you make appointments with him for an hour earlier and he'll be on time for sure! But with this habit, sometimes he would come the tiniest bit too late to pass the sacrament for his first time.
But here's the thing, he's getting so much better. So this last week, he was assigned as the opening prayer for a baptism before church. We see him jump off a motorcycle, run into the group photo, and made it only 15 minutes late! Score!

This last Sunday I came to the conclusion that I needed some real help with how we were going to be successful in Bangkok. What can I do more here to get this ball rolling? I was a little discouraged and as I sat on the bench during sacrament after this baptism, I glanced over to the other side of the room.

I saw Rad, passing the sacrament with all humbleness, for the first time in his life. His face was priceless. I thought to myself, "Of all the wins and loses from this week, I'm glad I get to sit here in this sacrament meeting and witness the "white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland" (who is always late), finally get to fulfilled his priesthood duty."

And when he did, he cherished it. It's never too late for the atonement to change what we believe cannot be changed. Whether habit or not. That goes for all, old member and new. And even missionary.

Sister Painter

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bangkok - Of midgets and men

Dear Family and Friends,

So as a fair warning, this email's gonna be candid! ...Okayyyy, they all are. Let's be honest with ourselves. When have I left much out?

This week, I got to use a nose-inhaler. We call it, "the menthol-nose-sniffer-jobby". Why? Because I got a COLD in Thailand. Are you kidding me? Do you know how hot it is in Bangkok? Anyway, they're super popular in Thailand, EVERYONE is addicted to using them if they're sick or not. One sniff of that little thing, and it's peppermint vertigo down to your inner trachea!

Anyway.... So let's talk about men.

Everyone we're teaching is a guy. Super weird, because I've literally taught only females since the dawn of time, it would seem. But now we have a range to rock the nations: we are literally teaching a hardrock, Harly-Davidson policeman, down to a socially loud but sincere 14-year old, to a grown-man who is also... a midget.
Let's review.
Our dear friend the cop. His name is Sergeant Airborne, or "Brother Air". He is over 50 years old, and if I were to describe him accurately I would have to say he is a man who literally wears his sunglasses at night while he rides his deep-pipe 'chopper'. He's got tattos, ganster shirt, hat on backwards, and a hard smoker. He introduced me to his motorcycle as his son.
But here's the thing! We found him outside of his house, and he'd seen missionaries before. He wanted something more. He had heard of the Book of Mormon, and he wanted one. We set up an appointment, and he came. 3 days after this first meeting, he had read to 2nd Nephi chapter 28. That is unreal. He had prayed but wasn't sure if he was doing it the best way, so he asked if he could kneel to do it. He cut his cigarette intake from 20 sticks a day to 10. He looked for opportunities to serve. And his biggest concern? Not understanding the strange language when he studies the scriptures because he wants to understand so badly. He said: "And Zion shall say, 'All is well.'" .... then a silence for a second, followed by, "I read that and thought, 'What the crud?'"
As for the other two. Arm is the young boy who now wants to come to every activity the church will ever offer, and while he has lots of questions and needs a lot of attention, he's entirely sincere and ended up asking yesterday, "Hey Sister, how can I be a member here?"
Grarog is our midget with the fear of eating the sacrament bread, because he just doesn't like bread. Hahaha. Oh dear.
These were the stand-outs from the week.
Anyway, Brother Egg had an amazing lesson this week to which he uttered his first sincere prayer for truth. I was beaming at the end to see how much his heart had been expanded in 45 minutes.
This week I had a tender moment out inviting-- an activity specifically hard and hot and not fun for someone who is sick. Usually inviting motorcycle taxi drivers is useless because they are snarky and never want anything to do with us, but this particular time passing them I asked everyone except one man. He had one arm, he was dirty, and he looked particularly ill. Then I thought, "Wait wait wait. Remember the one."
I turned back, sat down next to him where he was blatantly smoking a hand-made cigarette. He looked miserable. I heard myself say, and ONLY these words:

"You can stop smoking. I can show you how."
He turned his head, looked at me baffled and tired, and said, "It's impossible." I shook my head, "I promise you that you can. I will show you how."
He went to take a puff, looked at me, then his miserable cigarette. He turned around a little towards the canal behind him, and tossed it to the water.

I testify, that Christ can give even the hopeless a reason to change. I watched the embers of that cigarette go out with my own eyes. And the next day, that man, having no cell phone or way to remind him of our appointment, rode his motorcycle to the church, with one arm.
I believe in Christ.

Sister Painter

singing at transfers with the violin accompanying me Feb. 18th

Saturday, March 15, 2014

We Need A Temple HERE!

Sister Steward and myself. She was my MTC companionDear Family & Friends,

This week at zone conference, came the inspired question:

"Can God make a burrito so hot He can't eat it?" - President Senior.

With that smack in the face question to head this email, I'll begin on explaining the week and let you ponder over that one a little more later.

Last P-Day I learned to make some Thai food, and went to my Branch President's house for dinner. I was so impressed, to say the very least. It was truly a home built and centered on Christ. Their bookshelf was filled with about 50 Liahonas, 12 Gospel Principles books from over the years, and pictures of the temple, Christ, the iron rod. You name it. But it was also a home, not just Deseret Book. It was warm, comfortable, and you could tell real people with real lives lived there.

I was further surprised to here the Branch President rat out his wife; that she wakes up every day at 4:30am and makes him a lunch before he goes to work. That is a real love, and real charity.

Did I mention my Branch President is only 30 years old?

In other news: President Senior finally broke down (over a lost game of Skip-Bo with Sis Senior) and now we can listen to anything that is in the Hymn Book sung by anyone! Not just Mormon Tabernacle Choir! MERRY CHRISTMAS to me. Last night I played Jenny Oaks Baker's violin CD and was merry indeed.

For zone conference we also had MEXICAN FOOD. Oh, I can honestly tell you I cried like a child. Sister Marvel, a senior couple missionary, was just as out of sorts as me in our excitement and we literally held each other crying we were so happy to see real mexican food, chips, and salsa. We were laughing so hard at ourselves that we were having such an emotional moment over mexican food that I guess you could say we "Marveled" so to speak. Haha. And it was so good, let it be known. Que Pasa.

I so love all the recent converts here. There were about 18 of us in the new member meeting we held on Sunday, and it was just unimaginable and totally "impossible" that this many people came into the church within two weeks of learning the gospel. The work has hastened so much, that very many of the members were baptized in under 3 weeks of meeting the missionaries. That's nation-wide.

Before in the mission, the usual was about 40 people being baptized a month. It never really had a chance to grow, because that's just where it had always been. With the usual ebbs and flows of people dying, moving away, or leaving for various reasons, the church just never grew here.

Until now! And it hasn't gone unrecognized by Salt Lake, that's for sure!

When I was a greenie, I sat down with my trainer for one of my first companion ship studies. We were still having a hard time understanding one another, because she was Thai. I was raised by sweet Sister Pannida.

That day she turned to me in her chair and with tears forming in her eyes she said, "I want Thailand to have a temple. We need a temple here."

Her words were powerful in her broken English. I have never forgotten that moment. As I have since grown and she has since finished and returned home, now almost one year since she picked me up, I remember her words: "We need a temple here."

So when I work each day on the hot streets, I'm tired and sweaty and just about done for a minute, I think of why I do what I do. I do it because I love the Thai's. I do it because I want them to have what I have-- the gospel of Jesus Christ, and finally, a temple they don't have to use their life's earnings to fly over to attend.

As a last testimony, I know that God is invested in his work, in his missionaries, and in the efforts to get a temple. As I was riding my bike down to the church this week, and a small lady saw me (as she was situated on the back of a motorcycle taxi) and she pointed her hand all the way out and say, "That's her!!" and flagged me down. I stopped. "You were the one I saw teaching about Jesus once! I'm lost and on the way to your church!"

The work has progressed and moved in ways we cannot describe. A Thai woman recognized a Mormon missionary in the Buddhist country of Thailand.

What was once impossible for this country has met the reality of God.


Sister Painter

Monday, March 3, 2014

Where is my Cornelius?

Dear Family and Friends,

This week's email is going to be hard to write, and harder to condense my feelings into comprehendable words! I've made mention before that I have seen miracles and the Lord's hand in an innumerable quantity. I echo John's account:

"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." -St John 21:25

In that is real truth and applicable in all aspects to my mission. My emails gives glimpses of the reality but never a truly full and accurate account of what has happened.

We had 4 new people come to the church during this week that had never seen the sacrament room before. We felt prompted to show them, but knowing it would be locked as usual, approached the door uneasy, but hopeful. "I hope it's unlocked." Sis Croft said. To which I said, "Let's pray it's unlocked." to which I actually did.

"Please unlock this door for us." (As it is typically and always, locked.)

Sis Croft reached to open it and I prayed with expectation- she took the handle, turn- click! I don't know if it was locked before this prayer, but it should have been. We opened the door. Lights off, no one inside. "Uh oh" Sis Croft says. "That's not good." (that it had been left unlocked.)

I like to believe it hadn't.

Now as to continue, I'm not talking specifically about miracles that relate to numbers and concourses of people rushing the doors of the church, but in that I have seen a personal miracle in the change of myself.

My first week in the city (Don Muang, Bangkok), as many have inquired of me, has been entirely tiring, fast-paced, and above all, specifically and personally eye-opening in regards to where the rest of my mission is going to go from here. I will say that a very special general authority made his way here, even the Presiding Bishop of the Church to whom called all of us Bangkok missionaries into the Asok chapel downtown to meet with us.

Yesterday started as a "fast" (fasting from food) sunday, as we had a mission wide fast for the work and goal we have of each companionship successfully bringing 2 souls unto Christ this month. Yesterday I continued in my search of understanding Christ's life and understanding the Bible stories. With the context and visual scenery, the Bible videos made by the church have enhanced my understanding of context by 300:1. I've come to find that by understanding Christ's life, I cannot help but love Him so tenderly in gratitude and wonder.

I was particularly touched by a couple specific stories this week. One of those was Christ as "The Bread of Life".

I honestly will have to wait until I get home to sit down and talk about all the moments I've felt the spirit so strongly and specifically. But on this particular 'fast sunday', as I broke my fast across the street from the Asok church, with our meager "humble food" packed in a sack. Oddly enough, all I had was bread. Literally that was it. But a set of two Elders walked passed us-- one to which Elder Yuen had trained himself, and I knew was a supreme person. He saw us, and his eyes light up amongst the tire and exhaustion in his face. He looked so tired.

What would be only one of many tender moments of yesterday, I stopped this Elder and said, "Would you like a croissant?" and called back his companion as well as I pulled out the sack. His eyes spotted the roll in my hand and his expression was pretty undefinable. He said entirely sincerely and quietly with awe, "I haven't had a croissant since.... since America." His humbleness in taking the bread was moving.

As they left with real gratitude, I thought to myself, I offer bread to hundreds every day with our message. I have seen hungry and tired eyes like that searching for the real Bread of Life. My croissant would be eaten, and they would hunger again. But what those missionaries I fed will go out and give to other people-- the gospel-- will quench the thirst of all those spiritually hungry and thirsty for the Living Water, and the Bread of Life-- even Jesus Christ.

Remember that when you take the sacrament this next week at Church.

So now I've gone on a'rambling here. Oddly enough I had no intention on even bringing that small experience up, considering the mountains of spiritually enlarging experiences that followed it.

So back to the miracle I first mentioned. I was entirely prepared for this Presiding Bishop's arrival. His timing, most perfect in the retrospect of circumstance for me personally, had an impact I cannot explain in this medium. He said things that literally were direct answers, direct confirmations of previous promises, and all of it, completely relevant to me and where I was, with regards to what I have left to do. I don't feel I'm at length to explain-- Email isn't worthy of it.

But I will say this: I came to Thailand to find specific people, whom I know I had to have once known in the life before this. I testify, that I am about to find them.

Peter searched out Cornelius, as he was sent for. I too, was sent for. And I am now searching for those who called me to Thailand. With my last spanse of time, I will look high and low for my Cornelius.

Sister Painter