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


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