Monday, May 26, 2014

One Lost Sheep

Dear Friends and Family!

Pancake on a stick anyone? In your favorite Asian characters? Or even Spongebob, or Stitch? There's a guy by the park that does freestyle pancake drawings and not only are they cute, they're delicious. And, on a stick. So that's this week's Thailand-exclusive. Haha. 

And now I want to tell a story of what happened to me right before I ate that pancake on a stick.

Before I left to go inviting, our investigator Bobby full-out dropped us via text. Harsh, ouch. Unexpected. Do we mope and respond to it, or go be obedient by inviting for two hours? We have several reasons to not go inviting, but in the end...

We decide to go.

We were inviting everyone we could see in the park and we had already found quite a number of interested people. I felt like I had talked a lot, I was hungry, we'd already been here two hours, it's time to go and eat. We're about to head out, shoes worn, sweat rolling, and then....

A little thought, "You always have time for one more, Sister Painter. Just one more. That one."

I'm looking at a cleaned up, well-dressed lady sitting on the bench next to the track we had been inviting runners on for the last 20 minutes. She'd been watching us, no doubt. Her daughter was running back and forth from the bench. Sister Jackson was getting a last number and so I made that brave walk and sat next to her on the bench asking, "Do you want to be cleaned from your sins?"

She looks at me and says, "Hey, I'm Sister Erum."

Oops. Awkward. Just invited a member. I find out she's been a member for 10 years but hasn't been the last two. A miracle we've found this woman-- she had been obviously forgotten!

Then I find out, when she explains with a tear in her eye, that only her daughter was baptized. She was never allowed to, because her 'husband' refused to sign their marriage papers.

She had attended church and lived in every way a member would, but had never been baptized. She shared her testimony with tears in her eyes on that park bench. She told me she had been watching us work so hard from this bench and she received a witness that if we're working so hard to find people, our message had to be true. She told me she knew that I had been sent to her, because if I approached her, she thought to herself, she would accept whatever I offered her.

I told her God wanted her baptized. This is her time.

She cried and promised me she would be at church. She needed to go back, she said.

Sunday comes and she arrives with her darling daughters-- both of them. They meet their old friends and they embrace them warmly-- a lost sheep welcomed back into the fold.

The lost will be found.

As we walked her back to her car, she told me, "The police told me that the parking lot would be closed at 5:30pm but look!" Her car was amongst about 40 others. I thought to myself, Hmm. One last attempt and trying to get her to leave before I found her. Then about 10 minutes later I received a text from our mission that we had to be home within the hour.

This week, as many probably don't know, was a semi-strange week here in my homelands. I was sitting in a pretty ghetto "restaurant" (if you want to call it that), and they just so happened to have a TV going on behind me. Well, I'm eating and see a rat run through the "kitchen" and I'm like.... "Nice." To which directly afterwards comes a beeping and then a song, a full green screen and one emblem, and then in broken english: a statement on the TV concerning the state of the country of Thailand regarding military action.

This was the last week of our mission goal to achieve 3 baptisms for each companionship. It would appear as though Satan would have to throw whatever he possibly could to try to keep us from continually raising the numbers baptized each month.

In simple terms: Oh, he's ticked.

"It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?" - Joseph Smith

If we are to take this in football terms....
"I don't want them to gain... another yard!!!"

The work of God cannot be hindered. Attempts may be thrown at us, but with each try, we take our stand.

"On this team.... we fight! And we shut them down..... because we can!" - 'Miracle' the movie.

One day, I'll be an ancestor. I'll have sons. They'll like cars, manly things, and disdain the color pink. But most of all, they'll learn what is means to fight back the adversary and stand. They're learn that their missions were the biggest and most real fight they'd ever fight-- bigger than football, bigger than capture the flag-- but a real fight between good and evil. Between sin and righteousness.

When they leave my house on their missions, they'll know which side their mom fought for.

"For this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ."

I love you all. I love my mission.
-Sister Painter

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fighting His Fight

Dear Family and Friends,

As maybe you know or don't know, the Thailand Bangkok Mission has gone Facebook friendly. AKA, we can take care of all of our recent converts, members, etc etc via facebook while still a missionary. Thailand's kind of a place where people move, change phone numbers, go visit other cities at the blink of an eye, so being able to keep up with them without fear of immediate disconnect is a relief. It's teaching me how I'll take care of those I love from afar once I'm no longer present here. Technology can be a grand weapon for good.
I feel like my emails are always sit down "coming to terms" with everything I've observed in the week, summarizing it up, and streaming it to anyone willing to hear me.

You're probably wondering to yourself... why is Sister Painter always talking about Baptism?

So to answer that question, I want to talk about the magnificence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It can be layered down into 5 steps and these steps cycle upon each other.

Oddly enough, the "purpose" of a missionary reads as followed: "Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end."
The Gospel of Jesus Christ... is exactly that. Those 5 steps. All we do as missionaries is help people develop their faith, help them see how to build it themselves, help them to change-- quit those habits that damage the ability to hear, see and feel through spiritual perspective. We help them see why they'd want to throw those actions away and leave them underwater.

Baptism is a symbol, my friends. It's a cleansing and leaving behind of what once caught us by the heel.

But the thing I want to focus on today is the last step. The Epilogue. The Afterwards. The what comes next.

You've done all this: you've developed faith, you've repented of your sins daily, and now you've been baptized and have the companionship of the Holy Ghost. You are now a disciple of Jesus Christ-- the world is your oyster.

.......The crickets chirp, life ensues, challenges and temptations come at you to try you and the bubble of thought billows over your head: "What... do I do now?"

My dear friends, I send this message with love and tenderness.
I echo Elder Holland's words: "I wish to speak directly to the young people of the Church—young in years of age or young in years of membership or young in years of faith. One way or another, that should include just about all of us."

Discipleship isn't over when church is over. Discipleship isn't not a sprint or a marathon so much as it is, as the apostles would say, a "migration". I got to meet Bishop Gary E. Stevenson just months ago, and just a few weeks after that meeting he gave these inspiring words at the pulpit for Conference: "Before you were born, you existed as a spirit. In the presence of a loving Heavenly Father, you trained and prepared to come to earth for a brief moment and, well, perform."

This is your endurance race! The Holy Ghost is your mortal-life coach. If you listen to him, and you will perform to your best ability every time. There are promotions everywhere campaigning for your attention-- trying to lead you this way or that. "Enduring to the End" is "Fighting your Fight": standing firm to what you believe, and glorying in it.

"After ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done?" (2 Nephi 31)

The words that follow in this scripture could not say it any better:
"NAY. For ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in Him."

Ye have not come thus far to meet a little road bump, and jump ship.
Ye have not come thus far only to turn around-- back to the same old road you came on-- back to where you came from with moping arms hanging.

If any of these things have happened to you, I urge you with all my love to dust yourself off, and fight for what you do know, "even if that ground is limited" (Holland).

Our endurance race is a fight.

"In any fight, it's the guy, who's willing to die, who's willing to take the hits, that's going to win that inch."

I want to bear my firm testimony of a fight you can't lose. I have had the indescribable opportunity to fight the Lord's fight as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

"And all the nations that fight against Zion, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision; yea, it shall be unto them, even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite; yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion."

They have nothing on us.
"The laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion"-- we are winning because we reside on the Lord's side, and we fight for his cause. I have seen His hand change hearts, open doors, and entirely guide my mission.

"Wherefore, I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. He that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall." - Doctrine and Covenants 50:44

The Sword of Laban from the scriptures is unsheathed here in Thailand. Christ is at the Helm. His fight has become my fight.

Now, it's personal.

Sister Painter


Monday, May 12, 2014

Uproar: a การเอะอะ.

Dear Family and Friends,

The sirens are going, the message is urgent-- Ubon has officially been set on an Uproar: a การเอะอะ.

We sat the youth of the Ubon branch in a semi-circle and we showed them how to be successful. We practiced with a couple examples and then we pulled out a big bag of cards.

"Can you do it?"

The response was a two-hour rush of one of Ubon's most heavily populated weekend markets. Ten youth on motorcycles, four missionaries on bikes, burst in the front entrance with an immediate cry to be heard. Brother Ice, someone who just barely finished his mission who I've served with before in Roi Et, raised a banner with BAPTISM and the effects that follow someone who chooses to take it.

Each youth was responsible for their own investigators-- they were told to bring something to record numbers and at the end we would collect them all.

I want you to picture in your mind Dan Jones on his crate.
Then imagine it with a pair of tiny little 16 year old girls.
Imagine a young man, more shy than any before, turning his head toward you in absolute awe with the flood of people coming to him that were listening to his message.
Imagine an American, tall and skinny, with a name badge on yelling through the crowds of what their life could be in their native language.

Now picture all of that in slow motion in a congested street market filled with thousands of people... in slow motion.

That's how I saw it.

The baptism banner could not be avoided. In fact, cars were stopping on the road and coming back after they would hear me shouting to them from the side over the noise raising the banner up to their windows. One woman waved me off with confusion... then a brief period of seconds later, turned around, opened her car door, and with the motor still running, made that brave walk to tell Sister Jackson, "I want that."

Ubon has been set on an uproar that will not be quieted. The youth, in exhaustion, came into a group from their few places they had stationed themselves. No water, no food, it's Sunday evening-- no buying. Sweat, no voices left, handed in their results with significant confidence-- "This person is... and this person has been to...." They were invested in those they found.

The tally? 49 people in two hours.

I heard this morning that Poland has just begun using the method that originated here in Thailand that has changed Asia. Poland.

When I sat in front of the television about two years ago, President Monson made the significant change in age for missionaries. No person will ever know what impact that moment had on my entire life.

I know the Hastening was real the moment that announcement came from his mouth. Since then that testimony has only been verified time and time again. When I entered my mission, the average baptism count a month was 40 people. And the retention was just as low.

But then we believed.

And just last month, 217 people were baptized in 4 weekends.

In four months we outdid last year's END total. In the month of June we will hit 1000 baptisms in just 6 months.

It is unprecedented. It is what the world would call "unreal". ...but is it?

Or have we finally discovered reality?

The reality of God is doing "Impossible". The reality of God is "exceeding all expectation". The reality of God is a call heard to a nation of Buddhist people. The reality of God is thousands of years of "traditions held by fathers" dropped at the hat for what sounds familiar in His children's ears.

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.

The impact across the Ubon zone is causing us to be kicked out of public places. People are recognizing us. 

"...The Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him, [cried out]: "This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the [traditions of the] people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also [into their church]...  And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar." -Acts 21

 As Joseph Smith once prophesied so emphatically: 

The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done. [HC 4:540]

We're not done here.
I'm considering purchasing a mega-phone.

Sister Painter

 Skyping home on Mother's Day!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Envision Optimism

Dear Family & Friends,

This week in our 'Greece' (see last week's email), miracles happened. Oddly enough, the zone leaders are even teaching a woman who was an investigator 10 years ago and got dropped. Her name is Caesar.

So it's official that I've gotten way sensitive. We watched these Thai life insurance commercials on the bus ride home from Surin and me and Sister Jackson were COMPROMISED in tears. We crack up at how irrational we're being, bawling over these little tragedy stories, and then the bus attendant from the back comes up, has been watching us the whole time, and hands us a roll of toilet paper to cry amongst ourselves.

Well friends. The storm came. We burst into Ubon here and with our zone's spirits on the battle front with full faith, Ubon basically exploded. Insomuch that there was literally a DOWNPOUR of rain, lightning, thunder, the works. It was a major explosion, and we were caught inside the church right when it happened, so I got some insane photos. I'll attach some of Elder Cooper's too.
What are some other good funnies of the week.... oh yeah. I thought a ceremonial zebra statue was a big dog in the dark-- terrifying in black and white.

We tango'd across a park ballroom in the midst of pro's to try to get their attention. One couple was completely unmoved, the other couldn't even keep dancing they were laughing so hard.

We sang at a wheelchair charity give-away for the church and the Thai man that was the announcer called for us to come up, but then when we did, he had us introduce ourselves and then he's like: "You'll be singing. ..... But not now. So go." Hahahah. So we were like shunned to the other room until he called us again. It was just funny because he said it in English and it was so abrupt.

Honestly all I have on my mind all the time is that these people need to be baptized in order to be truly happy and receive what Christ has already done for them. People are coming from the dust, from the cracks, out into the sun. The message of the gospel, shared simply, is bringing a fold of people to the church-- teaching the commandment, the blessings, finish with testimony. That's all it requires. We were making it too complicated before. I've been teaching commandments, full lessons, everything in 15 minute sit-downs. The gospel is simple-- we were just making it too hard!

After being taught simply and committed boldly, how wonderfully bright a person looks. They are filled with this hope. They have hope for themselves. I tell them, "It's a new start. A clean slate."

The gospel expands minds. Especially when the concept is so simple.

I want to talk about Breem. This sweet girl had been going to church for a while but "wouldn't commit to anything" as it said on her records. We gave her a big hug on that 3rd day I was here in Ubon, and said, "Wow, you look like a member already. You are definitely ready to be baptized! Will you get baptized next week?" 
Some just need someone else have a little faith in them.
She was baptized yesterday.

The concept of Optimism and Vision-- let's talk about it. I would like to define optimism as: "Seeing not how things are, but could be. A spiritual construction of the mind, that, combined with faith, brings to pass the gifts of the spirit."

Our optimism in the future-- the construction of faith in our hearts and minds, draws us in the direction the Savior would have us go. When we align our binoculars, our side with His, we truly see things as they really are.

We see angels minister. We are guided to where we must be in that moment. We see life in God's light. When I think of optimism I think of a bright light. People that are optimistic radiate, and magnetize other people towards them.

Is it any wonder that we'd be optimistic and bright if our light showed even a particle % like the Savior's?

So, Vision. We are most optimistic when we see the way the Christ does. We see people as they could be. That is how I've spent my days in Ubon-- when I stop to talk to them, I see them as they would become. I want it for them. When we teach them, we give them their first tastes of faith-- a tiny tiny little seed, and give them something hard to do. Quit smoking today. Get married tomorrow to your boyfriend you're living with. Big commitments.

Why would they do that? Logically, does it make sense?

But what if a set of girls walked into your bike shop and asked for you to fill up their tires.

I want to talk about a man named Off. In the process of doing just that, filling my back tire, I expressed the message of the gospel and invited him. He capped my tire, stood up and just looked back at me. He was so friendly and I couldn't figure out why he was accepting everything I was saying with such a big smile.

The next day Off called us. He said he had had a tiring day at the shop, and as he was sitting in his home he had thought to himself: "How did those young girls have so much power?" He told me that when we walked into his shop it was as if an authority had followed us in and it invited him to believe everything we said. He said what he felt, he couldn't describe.

All I remember from that day in the bike shop was that we hadn't planned on going there. But we passed it, and turned back around immediately. I believed that he would believe me, and that he would be baptized. When I saw him, I knew it.

Off is getting baptized on the 18th this month because two optimistic girls had a vision of what he could be. The light that confirmed it to him was simply consequence of faith. "Any thing that has ever had any value, was first spiritually created in the mind, and because of his exceeding faith, he brought it about temporally. He literally caused it to happen." - Gene R. Cook

The Bumble Bee's body is logically and mechanically too big and too heavy and too disproportional to be able to fly.
And in such manner, do we fly in Ubon.

Sister Painter