Dear Friends and Family,
Okay, so on Monday we spent the day at the zoo, which was a huge party. It ended up that four companionships of missionaries went that day, so we all loaded up into Sister M’s 15 person van and headed into Memphis. We decided we needed to go in street clothes because it was 3 companionships of sisters and one set of elders, and if we had been in our proselyting clothes, it just would have looked way too much like a big zoo day for the Mormon polygamists! Hahaha
But it was really fun to hang out with everyone and enjoy each other’s company. The nice thing about P-Day is things like the zoo are never busy on a Monday afternoon! Then Tuesday we had another sister, Sister E, with us who was waiting to travel to Little Rock the next day, but while she was here in Lakeland we had a total party being in a trio. We had dinner with The N’s that night and then at 7:00 we had Book of Mormon class. I made homemade butterfingers for the class and they were a smashing success! It is so fun to have an active, vibrant Book of Mormon class with lots of participation from members and investigators. The N’s brought one of their kid’s friends from high school to it and he loved it as well. We are hoping he becomes a new investigator soon 🙂
The single greatest miracle I have seen during my time here in Lakeland is the difference in the attitude of the members towards missionary work. The members here have always been kind to us, but when I first got to the area asking for a referral was like pulling teeth. People were afraid to speak up and speak out about the gospel, and I totally understood that fear! I grew up in the south, it’s not easy to invite someone to learn more out here! But I prayed so much my first transfer that we would be able to help the members gain enough confidence in themselves, and in us to share the plan of happiness with those they love.
Ultimately it came down to teaching and loving the people we found on our own to show the members that we would do the same for their friends and family. Since I have made it a goal to improve the member’s trust in us here I have seen true miracles. We have taught people in member’s homes, people have invited their neighbors to church, we have handed out Book of Mormons to friends and neighbors, received multiple referrals, and even been asked by the bishop to come into his home and teach one of his good friends. The amount of tracting we do has been cut down as we have needed less and less to depend on our own efforts to find new investigators. The members are happy and excited to introduce us to people they love, and to share their own missionary experiences with us when we see them. I am so thankful for the change I have seen in this Ward, and for a gospel that blesses so many people’s lives.
Wednesday we had specialized training, which is pretty much my #1 favorite thing in the whole world. It lasts for 6 hours, but every time we have the opportunity to attend, it flies by. This week we were instructed by President W. on how to teach The Plan of Salvation in detail using The Bible, and by The APs on how to teach about the Book of Mormon on door approaches. I have SUCH a testimony of priesthood leadership. I am so thankful for strong worthy men who lead this mission and the church. After the APs instruction they sent us out into Bartlett to practice our new door approach. It worked super well and we got two return appointments for the Bartlett 1 elders. On Friday we had a lesson with J., but while we were over there, her 22 year old brother and her mom’s boyfriend came and sat in on the lesson. We ended up teaching all three of them lesson four, laws and commandments, and it was actually a really great lesson!! They are both new investigators, which is SO good for J.!
We also had a phone lesson with E. that day because she is currently bed ridden. During the lesson she told us that she had already asked her neighbor, S., to take her name to the temple and be baptized for her if she died before she could do it for herself. We told her there was no reason to talk like that and that we would get her baptized well before that point 🙂
Saturday though, just Saturday. Saturday Sis S, who we taught in Dyersburg got baptized and I cannot tell you how wonderful, and spiritual and intense and special it was. We drove up with Sister Y. because the baptism was in Blythville, Arkansas (about an hour and a half away) and J. came with us. When we got to Blythville, I was literally so excited I could not sit still. I think I walked around the church at least 6 times before it started. S. had asked me to sing, and since I felt like she needed something appropriately southern I decided to sing Amazing Grace a cappella. There were tons of people there and it was so fun to see all of my Dyersburg people 🙂
I cried all the way through the actual baptism and so did S. It was so amazing to see the change in her. She is truly a new woman. After the baptism was over, we all ate together, because S. had made Red Beans & Rice and it was so good! While we were eating, S. announced that she had made something for all of us, and pulled out a bag full of tiles with the painting from President Uchtorf’s talk in Women’s Conference! She had made one for each of us, to commemorate her first step on her own journey back to our Heavenly Father. She is such an amazing woman.
THEN, while we were all sitting and talking, J. announced that she really wants to do everything she can to be baptized before the end of the month. S’s baptism was a huge spiritual experience for her and she just feels like Heavenly Father is telling her to fight for her own baptism. She asked us to set her date for October 31st and asked Elder M to baptize her. She is really hoping to be able to soften her mom’s heart and I so hope that we can see her baptized that day. I love her so much and I am just praying for a miracle.
Sunday was an intensely missionary oriented sacrament meeting. K.C. gave her farewell talk. She leaves for Brazil Tuesday, and A.M. gave her homecoming talk. She returned from Budapest, Hungary last week. AND, Sister M. & I performed a special musical number with L.T. (she is a non-member!)! We went through about seven different things we kept thinking we were going to do, but ended up settling on A Child’s Prayer, with Sister M. at the piano, L.T. at the violin, and me singing. It was really pretty, and I LOVED having the chance to sing twice in one weekend, I have missed it 🙂
It was such a good week, I just adore this ward, there are so many thing here to accomplish, so much good work being done, and so many wonderful children of God. I have a testimony of this gospel, of baptism, and of the importance of missionary work in our daily lives. I love you all!
Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas