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