Monday, April 28, 2014

Greece: This is the Place!

Dear Family, Friends, and anyone who will hear,

As I write this, I'm 50 miles from the border of Laos. Last week I was told I wasn't moving, so I didn't even make mention of transfers. ... All that changed mighty fast.

This week I packed up all my things, knowing my time on my mission was short. The tension was high. I was nervous. I have two moves left, and one of them is only a 6 week one now with the changes in transfers back to 6 again.

I went to transfers, knowing not where I'd be by the end of the day. I got the assignment, I took my sweet companion Sister Jackson, and we took a night bus back to the Eesan.

My dear friends. I know that you know, that this is called the Thailand BANGKOK Mission. But my personal ministry (if you want to call it that) may as well have been called the Thailand EESAN Mission. If I finish in this area, I will have spent 9 weeks total from the entire duration of my mission, actually IN Bangkok.

I've moved. Now I reside in the rice fields of Ubon. Here, people speak 99% Eesan, with the exception of that 1% being members using "normal" Thai with us. Look up Ubon on a map. Thereee ya go.

I stepped foot, this last Friday, into what I believe to be my "Greece".

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.
And there are many more of them here.

Sister Jackson and I were immediately overcome by the feeling we had at each other's photo on the screen, and even more so when we walked into the city. I almost cried on the spot when we arrived and I road my bike on the city streets that day.

I don't know what awaits me here, but I have found my Greece. This mission is changing the world of Christianity in Asia. I know Ubon will be no exception.

And so I come unto my Gentiles and offer what Peter of old once offered for the first time. What then turned the world on its opposite ends has begun again in Asia, and I have been a part of it.
"These that have turned the world upside down are come hither." -Acts 17:6

The lost will be found.
The dark will be brought to light.
The lighthouse will shine forth.
Men will arise from the dust.
Cornelius will be found.

The crowning event of the Olympic Games in Ancient Greece was the marathon. It was the final mile that the race was won.
I learned struggle in Udon.
I learned how to rise in Roi-et.
I learned to shine in Don Mueang Bangkok.
And I've come to fly in Ubon.

My mission began as a letter from the Prophet Thomas S. Monson: "You are called."

To any and all, who will ever come across this little line of communication between missionary and the world back at home--If we never meet face to face, I have one thing to say.

All you ever need to know about Sister Monica Painter was that she answered the call.

Sister Painter

 Saying good-bye to Bangkok and all those going home to the states.

Monday, April 21, 2014

"I Can't Read"

Dear Beloved Family & Friends,

First of all, Happy Easter. Let's talk about this last week. Please prepare yourself comfortably in your Americanized swivel chair.

So Songkran. An excuse to be inconsiderate of people's dry state. It's hot outside... hmm. Splash! Buses, motorcycles, businessmen, ANYONE is fair game. If you think about it, the splashers (me) are really doing everyone else a favor. You look warm. Splash. You look like you're sending a pizza to that house over there. Oh you are? Splash.

(The city streets of Bangkok on Songkran. This is another one of our Districts by Siam Square.)

So our branch threw one heck of a party. It was soooo fun. Clean, happy, and fun. The members are adorable. I've sent home some grand proof. For instance, sweet little Sister Ging dancing like she just doesn't care.

I even had a water-bending fight. It was probably the strangest thing ever, as we were in the cultural hall and there was obviously no elements being thrown around. But I definitely felt like I was in a Japanese movie. So what it turned into was a crowd around with a sort of Avatar dance-off. Elder Trabing threw it right back at me, so we were sending an invisible "water" stream like that cartoon. Turned out to be way legit and in the member's imaginations they were actually seeing us throwing back and forth a big ball through the air. So at random moments in this 1 minute fight, the crowd surrounding was like "OOO!!" and "Ahhh! WHOA!!" Like. .... I don't know if they know this... but there was no actual ball. But it did look legit.

Anyway. That's how I spent my water festival.

Other than that. Let's talk about crazy.



Sis Croft and Sis Hughes were on a switch-off, and they found a man on the street that was seemingly normal. But then he gets to the church the next day for an appointment, and I will describe this man via hashtags. I'm assuming those are still popular in America.
#killedaman you'renotcrazybysaying"I'mnotcrazy!!" 
#whydidyoubringthatbigbranchofwoodfromthatnearbytree (apparently, as we were told, he carries it around because he's afraid of dogs?) 

That may look like a lot of rubbish. Try to translate it by reading slowly. Then take it in. That's pretty whack.

Anyway. Needless to say, we aren't teaching him. And when he called 12 times the next day Sister Croft proposed the following brilliant idea: "What does the Pizza Company say when they pick up? We could do that!"
Me: "......"
Her: "...Hey! It's an idea!!"

But here's the miracle story for the week.

The other day Sister Croft and I did find a man on the side of the street that was interested, clean-cut and normal. His name is Chaad. We decided to try out what Elder Campbell used to do and take people straight off the street into the church. A member was there, so we gave him a tour. He was so humble and really taking it all in.

Next day, we meet with him. But before that: "Oh no. Not again! No Book of Mormon??? We're all out??" A terrible problem, seeing as this man clearly needs it for his conversion! So we search the library of the church. Nothing. Classrooms. Nothing.

I pray and say: "Heavenly Father, this man is sincere! But I have no scriptures here. We're out. What do we do?" I get the feeling there's a book in the building. It's a small impression. I think, "Go to the stage."

The stage?? I was just using the stage for the branch activity. It's barren.

We keep looking in the church building. I just know there's a book in here, I feel it. I feel like Heavenly Father has placed it for us, and I'm being dumb and can't find it.

I open the door to the dark stairs up to the stage. In the tiniest and smallest room of the whole church building, lies on that staircase, one lone Book of Mormon.

I pick it up, entirely in disbelief. How did this get here? I look it over. No name, no markings.

One lone Book of Mormon on the steps.

We meet with Chaad. We teach him about the restoration and how he can know for himself through this book. I know he'll take it. He does, so graciously. But then with a look of shame and almost a tear in his eye, he says:

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you. But... I can't read."

I look at him and I hear myself promise him that if he wants to read, God will teach him how to read through the study of this book. I promised he would learn how to read. The look on his face told me he yearned for it. And as soon as the promise was out of my mouth, I knew it wasn't my promise to him.

A follow-up call to Chaad almost put me in tears. He said, "Sister, I'm trying so hard to read the Book of Mormon. I'm really trying, I'm doing it."

God literally prepared a Book of Mormon for us to find, for a man who can't even read. 

That's how far God is willing to go for his children.

I love you all,
Sister Painter

 This is our newly called Area Seventy.  I Love him.  He is the first ever Thai Seventy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

David and Goliath

Dear Family & Friends,

This week I am lacking a notebook of all the events from the week because it's water festival outside and that's treacherous business! So all I have with me today is a hawaiian shirt, giant crazy yellow glasses, my camera, and some clear baggies. Pictures to come next week, as this internet place is kinda ghetto.

This week we got to watch conference and that was beyond what I expecting. I want to challenge everyone to review those talks as closely as possible. There are major themes running through them, did you notice?

One that has been most impactful was the idea of "Who do you trust?"

Let's talk about it a little. There were a number of apostles that brought up this idea of "heed not to what people say!" How concerned are we about what people think about us? How often do we hide in the crowd when really someone should be standing up for what's right?

The influence of the world is increasingly negative towards the simple truths of having good morals. With technology and complexity of lifestyles, people are trying to make "doing the right thing" more complicated. It's all about "rights" and "tolerance" and "accepting everyone for who they are."

My dear sweet friends. If we really knew who we were, had there never been a veil between here and our original heavenly home, would we really allow ourselves these excuses? "Well, that's just the way I am. It can't be helped."

I testify to you that all habits, all behavior, all hearts, can change. Society's change does not define what's right. God's laws are God's laws. And coming from someone who truly loves God's laws, I urge you with all my heart to be brave and be "true to the truth that our parents have cherished."

What Elder Holland said after visiting our area here in Asia. President Senior got to go and meet him! --

Anyway, I want to share an experience from this week that will explain the message I want to send today. Do you remember the story of David and Goliath?

This last week I was walking along a bridge to get across the road. On this bridge, however, a very scary, big, insane man resides much of the time, but it is the only way. He has chased us madly before twice, grabbed us both twice, and honestly, given us a good scare plenty of times because he's crazy. Sister Croft and I have felt that he has a little 'something dark' about him that makes him so scary.

But this particular day as I walked up the flight of stairs to cross this bridge, I had a thought. "If you see this man, put your hand up and raise your authority."

I thought to myself, "Wait, what? I'm gonna do WHAT? David and GOLIATH this??"

So I reach the peak and realized the bridge troll was there. Uh oh. But the spirit was strong and made me feel confident. This man was huge! He could literally throw me over the bridge if he wanted!

I made that walk towards him. He noticed us. He rose to his feet and barked like a dog, to which I raised my hand to the square with an unexpected confidence, thinking, "I am a representative of Jesus Christ."

I cannot explain to you accurately what happened.

He shriveled away in fear. He literally crouched to the ground with a whimper, protecting his collection of trash in his grocery cart.

Goliath came down.

I felt as if I had a light radiating off of me that would allow him to come nowhere near me. He then stood up, knowing he could not pass my drawn line, and spit at me.

I walked on across the bridge, wiping the spit from my face and clothes. Victorious. Darkness cannot overtake light. Goliath will never take down a confident David.

Go ahead and try to convince me where the world's authority comes from. There's one authority to which all must heed-- despite popular vote.

I know with a surety that God's power is infinite and abounding. He is not quiet. He does not work in secret. And He administers upon the earth today through the warning voice of the prophet-- whose authority, I trust.

God makes David's out of all of his children if they are willing to be. You can overcome your Goliath's. You are so much more than what society's rules would claim you to be. Your "rights" include invoking the power of heaven.

"Let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?" (1 Nephi 4:1)

I love you all,
Sister Painter

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

If you are thinkiong about a mission!

Dear Family & Friends,

I have gotten a bunch of questions about my mission, and one of them was about how my mission leaders have affected my life.

If there was a name you didn't recognize that sounded like a lot of funny sounds during conference as a new Asia Area 70, I would like to announce that one of my mission role models, Elder Khanakham, was just called as the VERY FIRST THAI GENERAL AUTHORITY.

He is one of the most inspiring, wise, and consecrated individuals I have ever met. He is literally the most profound, concise, loving and purposeful servant of God and the perfect representative for Thailand's well-being. Thailand is literally going places. We have a general authority. I've watched his example my whole mission. I know that Thailand is in the hands of a real disciple.

But above and beyond all the people to whom I have looked to for guidance on my mission, the one with the most impact and most lasting influence, has been my hero. President Senior.

To any and all that are thinking about being a missionary, whoever you may be, where-ever you may be, I want to promise you one thing. You will never respect a person more, than the man holding the keys to your mission and your life as a missionary. Your mission president will change your life. He will inspire you, lift you, and know you more personally than you would ever expect. He knows what your mission was meant to do for you.

I had no idea that my mission was meant to change the entire life that will follow it.

To any and all that are thinking about mission service, I want to be a witness that you will never regret that decision. Make sure it is right for God's plan for you first. And then, if you get that confirming yes, rejoice. God has more in store for you than you will ever imagine. You will see the impossible. You will view the world with eyes that really see.

To all of your in Young Women's. Just know that "the Theme" will literally be the theme of your life. Your life is a journey of becoming. And as one Sister once said over the conference pulpit: "All I needed to know, I learned in Young Women's."

If you are a Young Man-- your white shirt and tie are a symbol to the world. We need all of you out here.

If I could use any more boldness I would. To be a missionary is to lose your life in order to find it.

Let's talk about light. As you stroll through your daily life you feel you are entirely like everyone else. I testify to you, that you shine brightly because of what you know. You radiate.

"Once Brigham Young was asked why we are sometimes left alone and often sad, his response was that man has to learn 'to act as an independent being to see what he will do- and try his independency- to be righteous in the dark. That becomes easier to do when we see the 'gospel glow radiating from illuminated individuals'." - Elder Faust.

On my mission, I have experienced darkness. Missions are not easy, but they are worth it. At times you have to take steps in the dark, but right as you make that step the light goes on. And it is the light I have seen in my mission leaders, my life heroes, those 'illuminated individuals' that has made all the difference.
You will need your Mission President.
You will need your trainer.
You will need your companions.
Your mission will need you.

Take it from a girl who never thought she'd wear a name-tag. To any and all who are considering, or have never considered, or are considering to consider: let me be this witness.

It is, and will ever be, the driving experience that leads the rest of your life. Of this I know: God calls you where you must go, and tells you what you must do, and the moment that you lose your life in the service of God, you find it radiating beyond that last dark step.

I want to thank my mission heroes. My supportive example of my Dad. My inspired and loving Mission President. My profoundly influential Zone Leaders. My prized District Leaders. My Thai trainer Sister Pannida. My sweet precious "Greenies", all three. My companions and friends. I am compilation of everything I have ever seen and heard from you. Thank you, endlessly.
My time is not yet done. But the gratitude spills over. As I move forward towards Conference and the future of Thailand, I know with a surely: "There must needs be more than this." - 2 Nephi 10:21

Sister Painter