Week twenty-nine – Bathroom Miracles, Good Ole Southern Cookin’, and a Broken Heater

Dear Friends and Family,

This week was so much fun. It was kind of a strange one, but good strange, busy strange! I feel like a lot of things happened this week that I want to tell y’all about, so if this letter feels a little scattered and A.D.D., I apologize!

So on Monday we had a teaching appointment at 11:00, so our P-Day really didn’t start until after that. But we went to this teaching appointment with a ward member, Sister L, who is so hilarious and wonderful. The appointment didn’t take long, but after we were done we hadn’t heard from the STLs to know where they were and we were dependent on them, because we didn’t have a car. Sister L had some errands she needed to run, so she asked if we would just be willing to run to Sam’s Club with her, and she said she would buy us lunch at the little café in there. We said yes, and then we had Sam’s Club lunch, which I kind of forgot was super cheap and pretty darn good!

Sad Note- Brother T, who I told y’all about last week, died on Monday. The Lakeland ward was in collective mourning this week, but I am so thankful for his life, and for the impact he clearly made on all those around him.

I am going to also just add in right here that this week was the best week I’ve ever had dinner wise! We were fed every night, and all of my very favorite families fed us! It was so fun. I really loved it. Tuesday was our last day without the car, and we decided to make the most of it and planned to walk about three and a half miles to the T’s Tuesday morning. This was an okay plan, except for the fact that Tuesday was the windiest day I have seen so far on my mission. We were getting winds around 30 miles an hour with wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour, and I decided it would be a great idea to wear my skirt that buttons all the way up the front, so that the wind could just blow open the buttons the whole way! Thankfully, at about the halfway point, the A’s, a couple from the Bartlett 2nd Ward drove by and told us to hop in. The drove us the rest of the way, and I managed to make the three and a half mile trip without a police officer arresting me for indecent exposure! Hahaha

Tuesday night we were on our way to Book of Mormon class when the STLs texted to let us know that the power was out at the church, so there would be no BoM class. We still headed that way, though, because we needed to pick up our car from the ASL sisters. You never realize how many lights there are on a church building/temple lot until you drive up on one where they are all out! We got the car from the sisters and then drove them to an appointment. After that we had to get my GPS from the elders because I had left it in the car when we gave it to them, and something possessed Elder M to bring it inside their apartment. So since we were over in the area we decided to swing by and pick it up. They were at their apartment, which I have never been to before, so they gave us the address, but without a GPS, we had to go off their very vague directions. And, they live with members in the middle of the freakin’ woods. And the power was out in that whole area, so there were no lights. And the wind was blowing really hard. And there was lightning. They told us they would stand outside to signal to us that it was the house, but while we were driving I got so distracted by two kittens on the drive way that I failed to see the four elders standing next to the kittens until we had already driven past. So then we had to turn around. But all in all the trip was worth it because Elder T let me hold one of the cats.

Tuesday night they cancelled our six hour specialized training meeting due to flooding, which really stressed me out because we had already planned for the meeting, and asked for rides out to West Memphis, which we then had to cancel. It was crazy. THEN, at 7:20 the next morning, THEY PUT THE MEETING BACK ON, and we had to scramble to get our rides figured out. I was not a happy camper. It was okay though, because the meeting was wonderful, and I had a great time!!!

Wednesday night we had to make an emergency stop so that Sister L could go to the bathroom, and while we were there we bought poster board to draw a fake fireplace on. When we were checking out, I started talking to the cashier about missionary work, and a guy overheard us and asked us if we could teach him!! His name is G and we met with him the next day and it went great!! He is totally searching for something in his life, and he has been interested in the Mormon religion in a long time. #BathroomMiracles

Thursday I ate pork neck bone at J’s house. She offered it to both of us, but Sister L declined. I wanted to try it though, because I haven’t eaten anything weird on my mission so far!! I really felt like it was gross though. I do not recommend it, haha.

That night we arrived home to one of our neighbors in tears, trying to get a flat screen tv out of her car. Apparently her ex-husband had lost their old house and they came and threw all their stuff out onto the lawn. We were able to help her get stuff into her apartment and then pray with her. She told us she was really thankful, and I am so thankful for the opportunity that we had to serve!! I’m hoping it will turn into an opportunity to teach her soon.

We also got to teach E this week, it went really well!!! She really wants to be baptized, but she needs to move out and leave her husband if she is going to be. We found out this week that he is actually her ex-husband, but that they are living together now. He is pretty mean, and she won’t get baptized unless she is on her own.

The biggest miracle of this week is that J and her mom came to church!!! It went super well, and they both had a great time. After that we went over to their house and read 3 Nephi 11 with them. I am really hoping J gets baptized soon.

Alrighty, I really love y’all, and I hope that everything is going well! Happy Thanksgiving to each of you! I am so thankful to have all of you in my life.

Love,

Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas

ALRM

Mustacheod District

Part of my district playing Uno and wearing Mustaches on Pday!!

Budda’s Hand fruit. I am currently             Pork neck! Check out the veins.

obsessed with it!                                               I actually ate it all, but wasn’t a fan!

Apartment Cold Weather Wear.jpg

This is my usual attire in the apartment because with a broken heater, it is FREEZING!!!

WEEK TWENTY EIGHT: BIKE WEEK, WALK WEEK, WHATEVER YOU CALL IT, IT’S NOT THAT FUN!

Dear Friends & Family,

So this week was, as the title suggests, walk week. Well, actually Wednesday through Sunday were part of our walk week, which continues until this Tuesday evening, but you get the gist of it. A big part of why walk week is sometimes a struggle is that our area does not lend itself to getting to places on foot. There are two highways and an interstate that run through large parts of our area, and there are not many places accessible by foot from our apartment. So because of this, when we are on walk week, we have to be very diligent about how we plan our days, so that we know exactly when we need rides, and can plan activities that are close together so that we need as few rides as possible. Having a good, productive week here without a car is extremely possible, but it takes a little extra work.

Unfortunately I have been struggling a little bit lately. I have been grappling with feelings of unworthiness as a trainer, confusion, frustration, and a lack of confidence in my own abilities. I am not really sure what has spurred these feelings, but I have been bogged down lately, and I have honestly felt like I am falling apart. I have become extremely scatterbrained, and I find myself worrying so much about one thing going right, that I somehow fail to accomplish five other things. None of these feelings were helped by the fact that this week was walk week and I did not do my part as a trainer and senior companion to ensure that we accomplished all the things we possibly could.

I’m sorry to start this letter off as such a downer, I promise it will get better from here! On Tuesday night in Book of Mormon Class we were talking about the creation, and the teacher split us up into groups. I was put in a group with Elder M, Sister W, Sister G, and Sister L. As we were discussing our assigned reading, I was so impressed by the spiritually uplifting conversation we were having about the miracle of the creation, especially after I realized that besides Elder M, the other three people in my group were a recent convert (Sister W), a less active member (Sister G), and a recently reactivated member (Sister L). How cool is that?? I was so thankful to be able to hear and appreciate each of their testimonies, no matter how big or small they were.

This week we also had the chance to sit down with J, J’s mom, and have another one on one with her. She expressed her appreciation for us, and told us how thankful she was that we were teaching her daughter, and even asked for help with something she and J were struggling with in their relationship! It was so clear that she has begun to trust us, and I am so thankful to see it!

This week we also had the chance to see E with Sister C, and it was an extremely productive visit. We talked with her for about an hour, were able to do some service for her, and she promised us that she would be at church again soon! She is a really sweet lady, and it makes me really sad to see that her fears concerning her husband are keeping her from something that she knows is true. I want to put in a quick side note here to say how thankful I am for the members of the Lakeland Ward. They take such good care of us and the people we teach, and if I never get transferred I’ll be perfectly happy right here! (Now I’m definitely getting transferred, hahaha! But even if I do, I will have been here seven and a half months, and that is a long time!)

Another miracle this week is that Sister W found the information for a great grandmother whose work had not been done, and had the chance to attend baptisms for the dead for the first time and be confirmed for her! It was a wonderful spiritual experience for Sister W, and it is such a blessing to see how far she has come.

By the time Saturday rolled around, I was pretty overwhelmed with the feelings I talked about earlier, so thankfully we were having lunch with the STLs. We went to McDonalds to eat, and while we were there we met some Jehovah’s Witness missionaries who really wanted to talk to us and we ended up having a 20 minute conversation with them. It was pretty interesting to hear about the differences between our styles of missionary work. After McDonald’s, I was feeling like I just really needed a blessing, so we called the elders and met them at the church. I’m so thankful for priesthood blessings, I never realized how valuable they truly are until I came on my mission.

The blessing helped, and while there are definitely some things that I am still struggling with, it renewed my desire to press forward faithfully, and I am thankful for that. Following the blessing, the STLs dropped us off at Sister W’s house, and we got to talk to her about her experience at the temple! I love that lady, and her testimony. She told us also that her brother is coming down from Canada for Christmas, and she is so excited to share her experience with the temple and family history work with him and his wife! What a wonderful example of a faithful member missionary!

This week we have been provided with another striking example of member missionary work. There is an elderly man named Brother T in our ward. He has a powerful conversion story, and was a patriarch for many years. Sadly, however, he has been in and out of the hospital for months now, as his sojourn here on earth has started to come to a close. I met Brother T my second week in Lakeland, and he was overjoyed to hear that I grew up in Texas, and not Utah, or “The Factory”, as he calls it. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had in fact been living in Utah previous to my mission. The T family is an anchor family for the church here in the Memphis area, his children and grandchildren make up many faithful families throughout this, and the neighboring stake. The reason I am telling y’all all of this is that Brother T once again entered the hospital Friday night, and the chances look very good that he will never make it back out. But on Tuesday night, just days before this last trip to the hospital, he called us and left a message, telling us he urgently needed to speak with us because he had a referral for us. Apparently he had a lengthy conversation with a man who came into his home to fix his TV, and not only told him about our religion, but gave him a Book of Mormon and committed him to reading it. I get teary eyed when I think of Brother T’s example of Christ-like love and the true missionary spirit.

Sunday was another difficult day, as J and her mom, who had promised us they would be at church, didn’t show up. And to make matters worse, halfway through Sacrament meeting J texted to let us know that it was because she had decided to check out another church that day. This came so out of the blue and was EXTREMELY upsetting to me. J is supposed to get baptized in the 21st, and here she was attending other churches! I was sitting in sacrament meeting pretty despondent. I couldn’t believe they hadn’t come. But as I was sitting there, a quote came into my mind so clearly that I honestly thought the speaker must have said it, but he didn’t. The quote was “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” – President Thomas S. Monson. As I sat there and thought about the quote, I realized that there must be someone at church who needed our love and support. I looked around the chapel, and to my surprise, I saw B (less active) and his wife, L (non-member) sitting a few rows behind us. They haven’t been to church in a month, so that alone was a huge miracle, but as I kept looking I noticed two other inactive members who we haven’t been able to meet with in months, and who haven’t been to church in over a year! I couldn’t believe it. I had been so upset and nervous about J and her mom that I hadn’t even seen any of them come in! I felt a bit chastised by the Spirit, but so thankful for the tender mercies that help and uplift us when things get difficult. As upsetting as it was to have two people missing, I can honestly say that it was one of the most successful Sundays we have had in a long time.

I think the lesson I have learned this week is that I must get better at submitting my will, giving up the reigns, and embracing the enabling power of the atonement. Our time on Earth is challenging, stressful, and often heartbreaking, but the great truth of this life is that it was not designed for us to face these challenges alone. If we try to do so we WILL fail, so why make things more difficult? Why not reach out and accept the succor that is so generously offered by someone who suffered pains beyond our imaginations in order to give it to us? I know that as we utilize the enabling power of the atonement, we will accomplish things we never dreamt of on our own. I know that we can go from good to better, become more perfect saints, and accomplish all the work our Heavenly Father has set out for us. I love y’all, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

PS: Two fun side notes. At dinner last night the number one question of all time was asked when R B, age 7, asked her father: “Daddy, when God was on the earth……did boys wear makeup?” It was the most confusing and hilarious thing ever. I couldn’t help but lose it right there at the dinner table. The second is that my release date is November 15th, 2016, so I officially have less than one year on my mission! Weird, but exciting.

Love,

Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas

ARLM

Mustaches

Mustaches!                                                                                    

Hannah leaves

Fall Leaves!

 Freezing in their Apartment

Freezing in our apartment that has no heat!

WEEK TWENTY-SEVEN: TRIOS, TRANSFERS AND TRAINING

Dear Friends and Family,

             My favorite thing about my mission so far is that I keep telling y’all in my weekly emails that I just lived the craziest week of my entire mission, and then a couple of weeks later another week comes along and kicks it right off the top of my list of crazy weeks! So I will say for now that this week was the craziest week of my mission so far, but I have a feeling it may not hold the title for very long!

On Monday I sent Sister M off to Arkansas and we said goodbye for the last time as companions. I was very sad to see her go. I really love her, and have so enjoyed these last three months together! But, since Sister M had to head over to Arkansas early, I got to be in a trio with the STLs for two days!! I am ALWAYS down for a chance to be companions with Sister B!

We had a really good time together, except for on Tuesday night I had to go to this weird meeting with them that the Zone Leaders, a member of the stake presidency, President F from the mission presidency, and multiple members from Lakeland attended, and during this meeting I made a comment and accidentally used the phrase “don’t know crap” in front of everyone in this meeting. President F followed up my comment with “Well she’s from Texas, so she has an excuse I guess!” Everyone got a good laugh at that, so it was okay. But just in case you were worried that I had matured past the point of embarrassing myself in formal, public situations, I have not. It’s beautiful.

But more importantly, on Tuesday the STLs & I went over during the day and visited J, J’s mom! She had invited us over, because she wanted to ask us some questions about our beliefs. She obviously had been reading some sort of anti-Mormon literature, because her two main questions were about racism in the church and Heavenly Mother, but, in one of the hugest blessings of my mission so far, we were able to teach with the Spirit and she happily accepted our answers to her questions!! I was so thankful to have the STLs there with me. They are both such excellent teachers and examples. I love them and look up to them so much.

So Wednesday was the big day, TRANSFERS!! I was so nervous I didn’t really sleep Tuesday night. I have kind of been freaking out about getting a baby. It is such a huge responsibility. If motherhood is ANYTHING like mission motherhood then I am going to need A LOT of help! I have been praying a lot for strength from my Heavenly Father. Strength to be diligent, strength to teach clearly, strength to love the way I need to love, and strength to set a good example. Going into transfer meeting I was so nervous. There were only three new sisters coming to the Tennessee side, so I spent so much time staring at them trying to figure out which one was mine, I bet they all thought I was the creepiest person ever!

My new companion’s name is Sister L, and she is a DREAM! I love her so much! She was a little quiet at first, but now that we have spent some time around each other, I cannot tell you how much I adore her! She is smart, funny, and such a hard worker! I have been so impressed by her, and I am so blessed to be able to be her trainer! She is from Livermore, California (Bay Area) and she is also the oldest of five kids, and just like my family, there are 4 girls and 1 boy!

Since things went so well with J, on Tuesday I broke Sister L in real quick and had her extend the baptism invitation to J that night! She did a wonderful job. The Spirit was really strong, and J accepted the 21st of November as her baptismal date! We then discussed the date with J and she told us she would pray about it and get back to us on whether or not she would support J getting baptized on that day. She also invited us over to do an FHE with her family that Friday. I couldn’t help but cry that night. I had J with a baptismal date, her willing mother, and my brand new companion, who had just extended the baptismal invitation on her first night as a missionary in the field! November is going to be a pretty great month.

Another really interesting thing that happened this week is that I got a call from a woman in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday night. She turned out to be a recent convert, whose daughter, also a recent convert, had been placed in the Youth Villages here in Arlington. The Youth Villages are temporary homes for troubled children. They offer mental and emotional care for kids struggling with a variety of issues. Her daughter had requested that some people from church come see her, and her mom was able to find our number! We told her we would happily go see her, and hopefully in the future bring some Young Women from our Ward with us. We went to visit her daughter on Friday and she was so sweet! Her name is A and we loved her! We are excited to go back and visit her again.

Friday night we had FHE with J’s family and it went so well!! J cried and cried, and told us she will absolutely support J’s baptism on the 21st!!! Miracles, miracles, miracles!!! I am so blessed, and so thankful for the opportunity to serve here in this area. I am so thankful for J, for her testimony, and for the chance that I have had to see it grow.

Another miracle this week is that E, another one of our investigators who is elderly and has health problems, came to church this Sunday! She had a great time, and we are going to see her on Thursday. Also, J has already invited at least 4 non-members to her baptism. How blessed are we?!

I have had a few people ask me for my opinion on the policy change, so here it is: My personal initial reaction to the handbook change was pretty negative, but I realize that the policy is such a small thing, especially when compared to things of which I have a testimony, that I cannot doubt. The atonement, the Book of Mormon, and Priesthood authority. There are things that I just cannot deny, so even if I don’t understand all of the policies and practices of the church, it doesn’t matter because I KNOW this is Christ’s church.

I love this gospel, I love His work, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve and do something I love so much!

Love,

Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas

ARLM

New Companionship Sister Thomas and Sister Lloyd

Me and my new companion Sister L

Hannah's District birthday

A birthday celebration for a sister in my district!

WEEK TWENTY-SIX – THIS IS HALLOWEEN!!…AND TRANSFERS, ALMOST…

Dear Friends and Family,

Hey, so this week was…really intense. This email will probably be short. It was kind of a weird week, but also hard to describe in words.

The first thing to write about is our Halloween party last p-day. It was so fun! We carved pumpkins and ate snacks, and it was awesome. I will include party pics.

The official missionary week started off with an exchange. It was really fun, and even though I wasn’t with Sister B, I enjoyed myself! I was with Sister J in Bartlett. I feel like Bartlett is pretty much my second area now. I am so familiar with the area and all of their investigators! It’s hilarious. We got to teach a really cool lesson with a lady named D, who told us on initial contact, that she is interested in getting baptized.

This coming week is transfers, and I was sure all week I was leaving the area. I have been in Lakeland almost 6 months already, and that is a long time to be in one place in this mission. I was SO sad. I love this area, and there are so many people I am not ready to leave behind. We spent a lot of time sort of saying goodbye to people, and trying to tie up loose ends.

The big things that happened this week mostly happened at the end of the week. On Thursday we had this amazing experience with Sister W. We went over to her house to talk to her about the temple, and it was going okay until she told us she wanted to postpone again. I really felt like we needed to finally resolve this issue, so I really pushed her to try and find out what her concern was. Finally we discovered it. She was having a little bit of a mental breakdown. This weekend is the anniversary of her husband’s death, and she was really upset. We felt like she needed a blessing, but it was 1:00 in the afternoon and none of the brothers in our Ward were home, so we called the Bartlett Elders. They came and gave her the blessing and it was SO amazing, because it addressed every single one of her concerns and fears. It was so spiritual. It obviously worked too, because she got her temple recommend on Sunday. 🙂

On Friday our Ward had a fall festival and trunk or treat. It too was really fun. Sister M dressed up as me, and I wore my Halloween sweater! The best thing about that though, was that J’s mom came!!!! And she did a church tour and she invited us over tomorrow to ask us the 10 questions she has about the gospel!!!!!!!! It was amazing!!!! I have so much hope and faith for J. 🙂

Halloween was really fun. We spent a lot of time with less actives and stuff that evening, because it was really hard to proselyte Halloween night hahaha. It was so fun to see everyone’s costumes, and the way that everyone decorated for Halloween. I love holidays in the south!!!!!!

Then, on Sunday, J came, and got up during Sacrament and bore her testimony!!! She found out about transfers and was really sad, but in her testimony she talked about all the amazing things we have taught her, and how our lessons have saved her. It was so amazing and fulfilling as a missionary. I just love that girl so much.

Okay, now you are probably dying to know what is happening with transfers…I AM STAYING IN LAKELAND!!! FIVE TRANSFERS AT LEAST!! Hahaha, and…I AM TRAINING! I’m getting a baby from the MTC!!! It’s so cool!!! I am really nervous, but very excited. The AP’s forgot to call me, so I actually didn’t find out until late last night, so it was crazy! But I am very excited for the opportunity. It is going to be so fun. I am really sad to see Sister M go, but I have faith that she is ready to spread her wings and fly. She is amazing. 🙂

I love this gospel. I love this Ward. I love my mission, and I am so thankful that I have this next year to grow to love it even more!!!

Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas

ARLM

Pumpkin Pics of Missionaries 2015

Sister M dressed as Hannah!

Hannah and Sister Mart in Costumes 2015