Dear Friends and Family,
So Monday we mostly just hung out with everyone and emailed. It was pretty causal, but included a trip to the seasonal Halloween store, aka the best place on earth!! Following that Sister M and I had dinner with the S family and participated in their FHE about Conference. This whole week has been marked with a little bit of post-conference depression, which is closely related to post-concert depression, but not quite the same. It really was such an uplifting, powerful weekend though, it is hard not to miss it! The S family was as cute and as obsessed with Photo Booth as always, I will include a picture of this.
Tuesday we visited Sister G, who is doing okay, but who still doesn’t understand the Book of Mormon. We invited her to the new Book of Mormon class on Tuesday nights and she said she would come, but didn’t end up making it that night. She promised me she will from now on though!
Sister N then came with us to teach a lesson and afterwards took us to lunch and helped us make cookies for Book of Mormon class that night. They were chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, but the chocolate chips had cherry filling! They were seriously to die for.
Book of Mormon class was SO fun. So to give y’all a little background on our Book of Mormon class situation, since I have been in the Lakeland area we have been holding Book of Mormon Class in our church building with the Arlington Ward, and attendance has been pretty dismal. No one from the Arlington Ward comes, and not a ton of people from the Lakeland Ward were coming either. This had a lot to do with the way our Ward boundaries are shaped. At least half the people in the Ward (including us) live 12 miles, or 22 minutes from our ward’s church building, and live significantly closer to the Stake Center, where the Bartlett 1st & 2nd wards meet. Our Ward used to hold BoM class at the stake center, and at one time had many people attending, including less actives and part member families.
Our rinky-dink Book of Mormon class has bothered me for a while and I had been trying to think of a way to change things, when I decided to explore the option of moving it back to the Stake Center. I asked the missionaries in both Bartlett Wards what they were doing for a BoM class, and Bartlett 2nd Ward had just started one up, but Bartlett 1st Ward didn’t have one. The situation was perfect for me to strike! I approached them both about combining to create a three Ward class, and just letting Brother B, who was teaching the Bartlett 2nd class, teach it. Bartlett 1st was all in, but initially Bartlett 2nd didn’t want to join because their Ward Mission Leader didn’t want to move their class from Wednesday nights. Neither us nor the Bartlett 1st Ward were interested in a Wednesday night class.I expressed my feelings about the problems of a Wednesday night class to the sisters and they invited their WML to pray about moving their class. The Lord was on my side of things and they moved their class to Tuesday nights with us and Bartlett 1st! It was a beautiful victory.
So this last Tuesday was the first night of our new and improved class. I was extremely nervous about it going well because I had been bugging the crap out of Bro M (our WML), Sister B, Elder M, my companion, The N’s, Sister G, The T’s, and even President Obama about getting the class moved, and I really wanted it to go well. Thankfully, the Lord was on my side once again and come Tuesday night was had the best Book of Mormon class I have been to on my mission! Attendance was high, Brother B is a great teacher, the vibe was energetic and fun, and most of my favorite people were there!
J came and LOVED it, she laughed her head off the whole time, interacted well with everyone there, knew the answers to multiple questions asked and happily answered them, and even made a joke about how funny it would be if 6’6 Elder M baptized her, considering she is only 4’8! Ugh, this girl is seriously my greatest source of joy AND sorrow right now as I watch her fall more and more in love with the gospel, but continue to be unable to be baptized because of her mother. I honestly believe that the Lord is trying very hard to teach me patience through this ordeal, because this is KILLING ME! I know, however, that I need to have faith not only in the Lord’s timing, but in J. Her testimony is strong and pure, and I know that if she keeps reading and praying, and doing the things she knows she needs to, it won’t matter if she gets baptized at the end of this month, or at the end of this year, or two years from now, because she has the foundation she needs to continue on in faith, even when the road gets tough.
Wednesday morning we had zone meeting and talked about our plans leading up to the month of November, during which we have a goal of 100 baptisms as a mission. We have spent a lot of time trying to learn new and effective ways to become better teachers, so that we can not only reach that goal, but have every conversion stick. President has promised us that if we hit our November goal of 100 baptisms we each will have the chance to attend the temple the following transfer. I am freaking out about that, because I REALLY want to go to the temple and otherwise I would not be going until March when I have my birthday!
One new thing we have been implementing as a mission is 7 minute Restoration lessons to be taught on door steps and first appointments. Teaching the Restoration in 7 minutes is pretty difficult, but I am working hard to get better at it. I really want to master the skill because I really believe that it will help me become a better teacher and more effective missionary, and the people here in Lakeland deserve nothing less than the best I have. Something I am working to improve, is utilizing all the tools at my disposal, and not just the ones that make sense to me. I KNOW that we are led by revelation, and because I know that, I should also know that all the instruction and guidance we are given as missionaries is also the result of divine revelation, and I should be faithful enough to follow it.
Following zone meeting we went on an exchange with the West Memphis sisters. An exchange between two sets of sisters, neither of which are Sister Training Leaders, doesn’t usually happen, so I thought it was a little strange, but I ended up really loving the exchange and being really glad for it. I stayed in Lakeland with Sister C, who has been out one transfer. We had a really great time in Lakeland, which is a pretty different environment from the branch in West Memphis. She and I talked a lot, and we had some really great, productive conversations. I learned a lot from her, and I hope she feels the same way. She is so stalwart and solid when it comes to things like memorization and other things that I often don’t give enough importance to. Her consistency and diligence is an example to me. She has a lot of passion for the work. I can see her drive and I really appreciate that. I was able to answer her questions and address some concerns about the 7 minute lessons and baptism invitations in the first lesson. I was uniquely qualified because almost all her concerns were also my concerns as a new missionary! It was really nice to be able to reassure her though the positive experiences I have had with both. I still feel like I am a brand new missionary, but I was thankful to have been able to spend that time with her and hopefully help her in some way.
During the exchange we visited E, an elderly new investigator who attended church two Sundays ago. We were able to meet her and her husband, who won’t allow her to take the lessons. We are allowed to go over and do service for her though, and we are hoping that will soften his heart. She is such a sweet lady, and she LOVED church, hopefully we will be able to get through to her. We have plans to see her this week and help her out with some things around the house.
We exchanged back Thursday afternoon and Sister Y was kind enough to drive us all the way out to West Memphis and then back to Lakeland. She also fed us dinner that night, ha-ha. But with her dinner appointment we implemented for the first time what we are now trying to do at every appointment, which is to teach our 7 minute Restoration lesson. It is such a wonderful tool because it helps us become better at teaching it, and also puts the message of the Restoration into the member’s minds, so they are thinking of people who are prepared to hear it. It’s just so easy to teach the Restoration and then go “so this is our message, who do you know that needs to hear it?”
On Saturday we had dinner with J at the R’s. It was another great spiritual experience with her. While we were other there S, their 15 year old son said something about Seminary. J asked what seminary was, and when we had explained it she went, “Well, am I allowed to go to that, because I really want to!” She also asked us a lot of questions about the vision of the tree of life because that is where she is right now in the Book of Mormon. After we finished dinner S invited her to stay because he was having a movie night with a bunch of the youth in the stake. She happily agreed and had a great time!
This week we also found some new people that will hopefully be really solid investigators in the near future. We met a woman named R who has seven children and really wanted us to come back. We are seeing her on Tuesday and I have really high hopes for her. We have made plans for B, a new investigator with kidney failure who we got to know and got a return appointment with because of my fairly extensive knowledge of college football, and are seeing twice this coming week. He seems like a really nice guy, and I hope things go well with him, he could use some hope.
All in all, it was a great week. I love my area, I love this gospel, and I love this work. In my studies this week I read 1 Nephi 10:6 “Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.” As I have served these past five months the lesson I have learned above all else, is the importance of relying on my Redeemer. I literally could not do this without Him. Nothing I accomplish here is born completely of my own skill and ability. The Savior is here in everything we do as missionaries, and if I am to be a successful missionary I need to give up all I have to Him, including my control. His way isn’t always easier, but it is ALWAYS better, and I am thankful for that.
Hannah Kathryn Thomas
P.S. If you want to know how much my mission has changed me, this week another sister missionary let me know how much she admires my organization skills!
At the Memphis Zoo with my District on P-Day.