WEEK TWENTY-ONE: TRAVEL, TRANSFERS, AND A TRIUMPHANT RETURN

Dear Friends & Family,

Okay, so this week started out with a drive from Dyersburg, TN N to Bartlett, TN so that Sister M could attend The Temple Monday morning. Our mission’s rule for attending the temple is that you can go for your birthday, and you attend the last Temple trip before you go home. So this trip Sister M got to go for her birthday. S drove us down from Dyersburg, and following Sister M’s mad dash into the temple (we were running behind haha), S and I sat on the grass and visited with Elder B & Elder T (the Elders we replaced in Dyersburg). S then proceeded to embarrass me/ruin my life by going on this huge long tangent about how Elder B & I were her favorite people in the whole world, so we needed to get married and name our first daughter S. With both of us sitting right there!!! It was beyond horrible, but thankfully Elder B has good sense of humor and was able to laugh it off. It really was wonderful to spend that last little bit of time with S though, I love her a lot, and I miss her tremendously. I cannot wait for her baptism on the 17th!!!

Once the Temple session was over we traveled from Bartlett, TN to Little Rock, AR. It’s about a three and a half hour drive, and we were in a van with two elders going home and another elder going AP, so I mostly just napped and talked to the Elders. Once we arrived at the church in Little Rock, we got to spend a little time hanging out with everyone that was there for P-Day, which was pretty nice, because I got to see a few people I love serving on the Arkansas side, like Sister A, Sister F, and Elder W. W then told me he was coming to the Tennessee side, which I was excited about, but all my other little friends are staying on the Arkansas side.

Then we had to travel to Conway, AR, which is about an hour outside of Little Rock. We spent the night with the STLs serving in Conway, and it was really fun. We burned tea bags and tights. The tea bags because it’s fun, and the tights because Sister F was staying with them and she hit her six months mark. We also got to email on Tuesday, because all our traveling Monday prevented us from having time that day.

Wednesday we traveled back to Memphis in the transfer van with all the brand new missionaries and the AP’s. When we drove through Orange Mound, the AP’s & I were sure to tell the greenies plenty of stories about missionaries being held up at gun point and being robbed, mugged, etc. Every single one of them was from Utah, Idaho, or Arizona, so their eyes got bigger and bigger with fear as we talked. I thought it was hilarious; Sister M thought it was mean, haha. Then we passed Bellevue Baptist, a HUGE Baptist church in the area, and we were sure to tell them horror stories about their extensive anti-Mormon literature library.

Transfer meeting was a huge party, like always. The highlights were definitely sisters being put in Dyersburg and Millington, so our zone went from only two companionships of sisters when I first came out, to now SIX companionships of sisters! It’s so awesome. It was also pretty funny to watch 6’6 Elder M walk up to greet his trainee and realize he was taller than him. Elder T at 6’7. They are both giant and I am pretty sure they both weigh less than me, haha. (Especially now that I have been in the south being fed by southern people!!)

Finally getting back to Lakeland Wednesday evening was THE BEST. It seriously felt just like coming home. I adore this area, and I will love these people until I die. I absolutely loved Dyersburg, and I had a wonderful time there, but I know The Lord needs me here. After S quit smoking and set her baptismal date, someone asked me if I was now sad that I was leaving Dyersburg since she wouldn’t count as “my” baptism. I thought about that for a while, because I was certainly upset to be leaving Dyersburg. I love the people there, but I realize that I was sad well before S set her date, and that really has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t matter who baptizes S, she has gained a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ; she knows where she came from, why she is here, and where she is going. She has felt the hand of God leading her home, and she knows her Savior lives. And the fact that I had a part in that, no matter how small, is more of a blessing than I could ever ask for.

I also have such a testimony of my divine purpose here in Lakeland. It may seem like there is a lot more work on the horizon in Dyersburg, but I have felt the Spirit testify to me that there are people here who need me. I don’t know who all of them are yet, but I can’t wait to meet them.

Once in Lakeland we met up with J and her mom. Her mom has recently put up some resistance to J getting baptized, so we have had to push her date back. We sat down with her mom and addressed concerns. She wants J to wait six months, because she wants J to be sure. She also wants to research the church and know what her daughter is becoming a part of. We are totally down with research, so we happily gave her a Book of Mormon, a Restoration pamphlet, and a card with Mormon.org and lds.org, listed on the back. She happily took them. Hopefully this leads to a new investigator! I mean I am willing to bet on The Book of Mormon.

We also had the opportunity to attend Women’s Conference and it was AMAZING. The talks given, each held something powerful and personal that I needed to hear. I especially loved Sister R and Sister M’s talks. I loved their tender talk of the Savior, and of the divine importance of the work of salvation. I especially loved the focus on families, their divine purpose and their central place in the plan of happiness. I am so thankful for families. For the one I have now, for the people I know who have become my family, for my mission family, and for my future family.

Saturday we helped Sister W in her yard, and I went a little too hard on the weeding, I ended up rubbing one side of my finger totally raw, with gloves on!! It was worth it to be able to help out Sister W though, I really love that woman.

Sunday we had J at church, as well as a woman named E that came with The J family. She stayed for all three hours and we were able to set up a return appointment to teach her in the J’s home! Overall it was an amazing week. Part of being a missionary is enduring hard times in order to receive great blessings. In her talk during Women’s Conference this weekend Sister Reeves described a moment, far in the future for each of us, when we will have the opportunity to look back on our lives in the presence of our Father, fully aware of the many eternal blessings we have received for our righteousness, and turn to Him with tears in our eyes, and say “Was that all that was required?” As I have served these past 5 months I have had what I consider a type of this moment over and over again while writing these letters. Each Monday I have the opportunity to look back on the week past, realizing the many blessings I received. I can’t help but look at the hard moments and ask: “Was that all that was required?” I love this gospel so much. I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have to be a missionary. I honestly can’t believe how quickly the time is going, and I love you all.

Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas

ARLM

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