Dear Friends and Family,
Okay, a couple of weeks ago I titled my email “Craziest of Crazy Weeks,” well that was only because I had not lived this week yet. But since I had already used the title, I figured I couldn’t repeat, so I used this one instead. Seriously though, this week has been a BLAST!!
It started off with a trip to the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid in downtown Memphis. In case y’all don’t know what that is, it’s pretty much the most redneck thing that ever happened. So however many years ago they built this HUGE Pyramid shaped arena thinking that the Memphis Grizzlies would use it as a stadium, but for whatever reason the Grizzlies didn’t end up using it, so it has been sitting empty for years. Well then Bass Pro decided to buy it and turn it into the world’s largest Bass Pro Shop, and it is hilarious/wonderful. They have an elevator shaft right down the middle that goes all the way to the top of the Pyramid, where they have a restaurant and a big (glass!) observation deck. The view of Memphis from up there is really beautiful, and even though I was pretty terrified, I was glad I went up!
Tuesday we spent the day saying our goodbyes in Lakeland. We had lunch with SB, my BFF 4 Lyfe, and spent time with J, Sister G, Sister W, etc. it was a good day, but really, really sad.
Wednesday we had Specialized Training as a zone in Frayser (aka second sketchiest neighborhood in Memphis, second only to Orange Mound) and it was SO great. We focused on teaching more simply and powerfully. It built on our Zone Meeting instruction from last week about teaching the restoration in 7 minutes. We then were shipped out in randomly assigned companionships throughout the Frayser area to street contact with our newly learned skills. I went out with Sister N, one of the Bartlett ASL sisters, and we stopped by the home of some members in the Memphis 1st Ward. We ended up figuring out that only one of them is active and stayed there to teach them the restoration! At the end of the brief lesson we had three less active members committed to coming to church Sunday and one of them who has a young child, asked if she could get her baby blessed! It was pretty amazing, seriously. There is power in simplified and improved teaching, and I am so thankful for consistent, inspired instruction from mission leaders. Specialized was one last hurrah with my Bartlett buddies since in all likelihood Sister B & Elder M are both getting transferred next week. I like those weirdos. Also, it was POURING RAIN towards the end of specialized and Sister N and I had to run out and get some things out of our car during the torrential downpour. We were seriously soaked!!
After Specialized we had quarterly interviews with President W, and I am so thankful to be led by such a kind, spiritual man. After interviews it was time for the big switch, and we headed to Dyersburg. Since we were taking over an Elder’s apartment, President let the Bartlett sisters come up with us to spend the night and clean the apartment. I was really thankful for the extra time with Sister B, she is my #1 favorite.
That night we met the branch president and got some more info about the area. The town of Dyersburg is home to about 17,000 people, and there are about 25 active members of the branch. Branch life has blown my mind. I have never been exposed to such a small congregation, but I could not have asked for a better group of people to serve amongst. The people here are so dedicated to the gospel. They have to be in order to stay strong when there are so few. The member support of missionaries is ASTONISHING! We literally have been forced to tell people no on dinner appointments, because our calendar is full! There have been nights where three different people have wanted to feed us!
Here are some specifics on people I KNOW we were sent here to teach. So the first is a less active lady named N, who has been out of the church for about 4 years now. She has two kids and a husband who is an RM, but is also totally inactive. She has been to the temple, but has really struggled a lot with her faith these last 4 years. We texted her Wednesday night and asked if we could come see her Thursday. She was excited and invited us over Thursday evening. When we got there we found out she used to be super active, and even went out with the sisters regularly at one point while living in California. There were several times during the visit when she burst into tears, overjoyed at the fact that we had been sent to her. We set up a family home evening with her for the next night and it went super well. We committed her and both her children to come to church on Sunday and offered to come over and help them, get ready Sunday morning. When we got to the house Sunday morning they were ready and walking out the door! They didn’t even need our help! N stayed for all three hours of church for the first time in 4 years. It was amazing. At the end of the 3 hour block she asked if she could receive a priesthood blessing. The branch presidency performed the blessing and she cried all the way through it. That night she had us over for dinner and told us she had written and sent a letter to President W thanking him for sending sisters to Dyersburg! Seriously, what a miracle.
The next person is a woman named S. She is from New Orleans, and has only been in Dyersburg about 2 months. She has been talking to missionaries on and off for about 3 years, but the missionaries here found her on accident while looking for someone else! It is a really cool story. We have been able to meet with her a lot since we have been here and she came to church with us on Sunday! She also plans on attending the Stake Relief Society activity this Saturday in Bartlett.
Finally there is the J family. She and her 14 year old daughter are recently reactivated members, but her husband D is an investigator. He is very interested though, and LOVES us Sister Missionaries. We have taught him twice already and he has been happy and engaged both times. They also feed us LIKE CRAZY. We’ve had pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy, beans, and peas, Red Beans and Rice, Gumbo, and Rice with Red Gravy, etc., just since we have been here! They also love to send us home with food for the apartment since, and I quote: “Elders don’t know how to grocery shop!” It has been so much fun getting to know the people here, I really do believe in miracles, and I have seen them this week. Thanks to each of you for your support.
Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas
Hannah and her comp. with the Bartlett Sisters in Memphis on p-day.
Bass Pro Shop in Memphis
Tennessee has changed me! (C from New Orleans gave me the beads)